Time Flies

 

Awhile ago I was having a conversation with my best friend, then about 8 months pregnant with her second child.  Her husband was away for work at the time and she was dealing with a three-year-old and a heat wave.  She was obsessing over getting her son’s new room perfect so that they could move him in there before the baby was born.  I was trying to convince her to take it easy, and it all seemed so logical to me that she should just be able to let some things go and give herself a little grace.  I could practically hear her eyebrow arch over the phone. The pot was on the phone to tell the kettle she was black.

Who me?

Fair point.  I do this all the time.  I take whatever life event is stressing me out, and I seem to find some project that I think will fix everything and give myself a million tasks around it.  It’s my way of trying to take control of the situation.  About a year ago, I started a bullet journal to keep myself a bit more organized and fell into an Instagram hole of amazing bullet journalists.  All of a sudden I decided my handwriting was bothering me, so I needed to incorporate 20 minutes of handwriting practice a day.

Plus my new daily workout to fix my mummy tummy.

And cut back on processed foods.

And have a “no spend” day once a week.

And a weekly meal plan for the whole family where I cook dinner most nights.

But I couldn’t figure out why I felt so stressed and unhappy. Why I kept wondering if I needed to call my psychiatrist to up my medication for the first time in ten years.  The idea that I was putting extra pressure on myself never entered my mind.

Maybe Later

These skills are all lovely things to put into practice, but now is not my time for most of them. I’d love to have beautiful handwriting, but I think everyone would prefer I use that time to shower. Because there is only room for one of the two.

While part of my desire for all these projects is certainly about a wish for control and keeping the outside of things looking perfect, I think it harkens back to something else too – the freedom that I had before I became a mother.

Even before I quit drinking, I was always a big fan of self-improvement practices and learning new things. I had a standing new years resolution to learn one new skill a year for no other reason than it interested me. I would dive into new and overwhelming projects, and experience time speed up as I focused intently and felt the thrill of the tiny improvements in my new skill emerging. I still have this urge. I still want to learn calligraphy and how to surf. I want to learn to play the ukulele. I want to learn javascript and how to make jewelry.

Well that’s efficient

But being a mom is a skill that takes more than one year to learn. I don’t know if it’s one I’ll ever master. It’s trickier than say, learning the piano. As soon as you think you’ve got it figured out — everything changes.

Tempus Fugit

I am also constantly reminded in subtle ways that I won’t always be so strapped for time. The way my son’s head suddenly appears above the top of the kitchen table instead of skimming beneath it – when did he grow? A couple of months ago, I could count how many words he knows. Now I have no idea. Hundreds?

I have always hated it when mothers look at me and say– almost as a warning – “It goes so fast…” I believe it. But it irks me because my attitude has been, “Yes, I get it, but what do you want me to do about it other than to be sad?”

Maybe this is part of the answer – to put some things I want to do on hold because there will space later in my life. When my son is moody and hormonal and just wants me to leave him alone. When he goes off to college and they have to pull me off his doorjamb. Maybe that’s the time for calligraphy.

The limits of time have never sat well with me.  I remember crying as a child once when I realized I would never have time to read all the books I would want to in a lifetime.  I’m still that same girl.  There are too many things I want to do in this life and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I probably won’t get to do them all.

Choices

For me, there is a simple truth that I can’t both DO ALL THE THINGS and enjoy all the things. There is something in knowing the limitations of time.  It means your choices must be considered.  What we choose is special because whether we think about it or not, it’s what we’ve prioritized at this moment above everything else.

I also know I could do everything else on my list, but if I had never gotten to be a mother, it would have felt hollow.  So what if I got to see Kyoto but didn’t have the full human experience of having a child?  This is certainly not the case for everyone nor should it be. It’s just what’s true for me.  I have always wanted this.  It is special, and brief.  It deserves my full attention.

I still have and use my bullet journal. It helps me keep track of play dates and meetings. And I even have a page for “Stuff I Want to Learn”. Having a place to park those ideas somehow lessens the anxiety that I will immediately blank on everything I was ever interested in the moment I am left alone with my thoughts. When I get that down on paper and out of my head, I can then look up and focus on where I am right now. I can see the way my son’s hair sticks up because he’s gotten banana in it again, and notice how he smells like sunscreen and dirt from the playground. And I can know that even if it’s not a skill I can put on my resume, or impress people with at parties, I’m still always learning.

 

Letting Go of Perfectionism

Perfectionism

Perfectionism

There’s a catch-22 in writing about perfectionism. I have wanted to write about this for weeks but kept putting it off. I wanted to do more research. I needed to have the right inspiration… In reality, I was terrified — because if you’re going to write about perfectionism, it had better be perfect.

Let’s get this out of the way: This post isn’t perfect. I am not perfect. And dammit I hate that.

Perfectionism is my preferred defense mechanism. If I am smart enough, thin enough, selfless enough, pretty enough, impressive enough, etc. then no one will notice all the things that are wrong with me.

The Trap

It worked pretty well for a long time. Most people in my inner circle didn’t realize I had a problem with alcohol because I was so high functioning. Had anyone dare say anything, I had my hobbies, career advancements, relationships, and friendships to throw in their faces. I used it to justify my drinking to myself as well. Look, I work hard, I volunteer, I bake, I sew, I write… can’t I have Just One Thing?

The problem was, it worked too well. A couple of times I was brave enough (okay, drunk enough) to admit that I thought I had a problem, and people told me they didn’t think I did. I got the feeling they thought maybe I was being a touch overdramatic. Cringe.

But I also had a strong fear that I wouldn’t be found out. That I would be able to keep up the façade. – until one day I would develop cirrhosis. And then the jig would be up. People would know how imperfect I was and it would be forever metaphorically etched on my tombstone.

I don’t think I’m alone here

There is a huge misconception in this country about what an alcoholic actually is. People picture someone homeless stumbling around with nothing left talking to themselves. They don’t tend to picture a woman. Certainly not one in business attire. And it doesn’t take drinking a fifth of vodka a day to become addicted to alcohol.  A bottle of wine or two will do just as nicely. One of my favorite quotes from Ann Dowsett Johnston about her drinking is, “I drank way more than I should have and probably a lot less than you’re thinking.”

There is something going on here culturally too. It may just be the women I hang out with, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a woman who doesn’t consider herself a perfectionist. I hear it everywhere, “I’m such a perfectionist.” “I’m so OCD”, “I’m totally Type A”. Have you ever heard anyone say they’re type B? Because I haven’t.

I’m so OCD. But not in an unattractive way.

There is a message that if you aren’t a perfectionist, you are lazy. You let things go. And beware, because there are plenty of women out there who don’t. They are better than you, and everyone you love may just realize that.

One of my biggest fears in writing this post is that someone I know would see it and say, “Really? You? A perfectionist? Okay…”

In truth, I don’t know that I am a typical perfectionist. My house is somewhat messy. I’d love for it to be sparkly, but not enough to, y’know, clean it. My clothes aren’t perfectly ironed or expertly tailored, and I often wear flats despite knowing I look better in heels. I have even been known to eat ice cream in public after coming to the shocking realization that no one cares.

The strange thing is, I don’t expect perfection from others, so it seems egotistical that I should have to be perfect and no one else does. The truth is that I feel like my being perfect gets me just up to the level of everyone else’s normal. I don’t know where this comes from. But I do know that it speaks with the same voice that whispers that I should skip dinner. That I could have just one drink.

Imperfect mom

In a way, the thing that has shifted me away the most from perfectionism has been becoming a mother.  It’s a strange thing because I want the best for my child in ways I never did for myself.  But motherhood threw into sharp focus the fact that it’s just not possible.  Seeing that huge gap between myself and perfection and knowing it wasn’t something I could close was an ego blow.  But it was also a relief.  In knowing that it was impossible, I was able to let go now and again.

I know I can try with all my might to be the perfect mom.  To hand sew his Halloween costumes instead of buying them on Amazon.  To read educational books for hours and set up some sort of sensory water station like I see on Pinterest when we are stuck at home, instead of cuddling and watching tv together.  But in giving up some of those things, I also know that my son gets a mom that isn’t wound up like a rubber band ready to snap.

A slow fix

I don’t have a top ten list here of how to beat this. Nor do I have a cute exercise for you to change your thinking (although Steps 4 and 5 are a damn good start.) This is a process. Realizing it is an important step towards learning to question that perfectionistic voice. That’s been what has begun to help me. To stop for a second and ask myself,“Wait, is that really true?”

Is it true that I can’t have people over to my house because there are bags of clothes in my room I still haven’t donated?

Is it true that if I ask for a sick day to take my kid to the doctor that my boss will mommy track me?

Is it true that unless I get Botox, people are going to think my face looks like a shoe?

pretty much

I have to remind myself every day that adult life is not like middle school. I am not under a microscope. And if someone criticizes me for something, their word is not gospel. It’s just their opinion and worth no more than my own. It is my choice to jump down a shame rabbit hole. Or not.

Thoughts?  Want to tell me how perfect I am?  That I do look like a shoe? (I knew it.)  Have at it in the comments.

My Invisible Sober Friends

sober friends

sober friends

 

I don’t know any of these people, but they keep me sober.  This is a great time in history to be sober — we have all these wonderful resources. Sometimes when you aren’t face-to-face, you can say things that you otherwise couldn’t.  That’s why I love my invisible sober friends.  They strengthen my sobriety every day.

Podcasts:

podcast resource

Name: The Bubble Hour 

The details: This is my personal favorite of the sobriety podcasts, because it’s geared towards women, and it doesn’t push any one particular practice of recovery.  While I have had good luck with 12 steps, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.   These ladies focus on themes for the episodes, which are generally about an hour.  I listen to them when I am doing errands, walking around, doing dishes etc.

resource podcast

Name: Recover Girl with Anna David

The details: This one is fun. It used to be called “The Afterparty” and it fit well.  She talks with people mainly in the entertainment industry about their thoughts on addiction.  Sometimes the intros can take awhile, but it’s worth it once it gets going.  Her episode with Moby is unmissable

Books

Drinking – A love story – Caroline Knapp  

If you didn’t read this in secret while you were considering getting sober, grab it now.  It’s amazing.

Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol – Ann Dowsett Johnston

An amazing analysis on how alcohol affects women differently.  Really interesting take on how alcohol is marketed to women and the effect that has had.  That said, a couple of the stories can be a little hard to read as a mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Drinking Now – Alan Carr’s Easyway

Though he pays homage to AA, Carr rejects the disease model. He instead follows the line of reasoning that alcohol is an addictive substance, and like any other, it’s job is to get you addicted.  Much in the same way that he did for cigarettes, he examines everything that we *think* we find enjoyable about drinking, and makes you realize – it’s not really that enjoyable.  While his book Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Quit Smoking did get me to quit a pack a day habit with ease, this book did not get me sober on its own, though it does for some.  It does inform a lot of how I look at alcoholism, and it made quitting alcohol a hell of a lot easier with that mindset.

 

This Naked Mind – Annie Grace

This is basically the same thought process as the Alan Carr book, but I found this to be much more readable and relatable as a woman. Reading both will not kill you.

Social Media

Twitter

Go ahead and make up an anonymous handle just for recovery stuff.  Search out hashtags like #xa #recovery #sobriety etc.  You can find a good community on there pretty quickly.  I always said I’d NEVER be on there and I am eating my words.

Facebook

This one can be iffy.  Personally, I belong to a private group for sober moms which is set up as a secret board, so it won’t notify all your friends that you joined it etc.  If you can’t find any, start your own!  Be careful about liking/posting to public boards if you care about your anonymity.  But I put this on here because this particular group has been a lifeline to me.

Recovery Websites and Apps

Sober Grid

This is an app that contains a sober social network.  Just like you can on Twitter, you can get a quick response here when you need one.  While seemingly more for people newer to sobriety, sometimes that can be a good thing.  Especially if you are too busy to sponsor, just show up on there for five minutes.  Provide some experience, strength, and hope to someone who is just trying to get through their first few days.  It feels good.

Hip Sobriety

I have such a blog crush on Hip Sobriety.  It’s brainy and brilliant.  It’s a modern take on women’s sobriety, feminism, culture… I only wish it had comments enabled so I could fawn over every post.

Unpickled Blog

The personal musings of the host of the bubble hour.  Always good writing on sobriety and life.

Mrs D is Going Without

There’s a reason this site consistently ranks as one of the best recovery blogs out there.  She is funny and wise. I wish she didn’t live on the other side of the world so we could be real-life friends and hang out at each others’ houses.  You can read her first year of sobriety month by month, as it’s conveniently sectioned out at the top.  She also has a new book out which I can’t wait to read.

This post will become its own page on the blog, and I will continue to update it with new and wonderful things that I find.

Got a favorite sobriety blog? Podcast? Book?  Tell me in the comments!

How to Make Mom Friends

mom friends

mom friends

Even before I had my son, I knew that along with the crib, swaddles and Rock n’ Play, there was one more essential to add to my list of must haves, and that was a tribe of mom friends.

I knew this because I saw headlines from the cool mom voices of HuffPo, Scary Mommy, Red Tricycle etc. that were pumped into my Facebook feed as “suggested articles”.

5 Types of Mom Friends Every Mom Needs”

Ok got it. I’ll be on the lookout for those.

“11 Types of Mom Friends – and Why They’re Important”

 Wait, how many now?

 “The 6 Types of Friends You Have As a First Time Mom”

 Oh, so those come preinstalled? Cool.

Hi.  We’re the mom friends you ordered.

It was my hope that these gems would just arrive as if by magic once I had the baby. They would see me with it and they would have one of their own. The shared experience of the insanity that is childbirth and the newborn phase would make us instantly understand each other. Like trauma bonding. Perhaps I’d meet them in the breastfeeding class at the hospital. (Or was that creepy?) Could I meet them at the pediatrician’s office? I wasn’t sure.

Ever the good student, I decided to get a jump on the process. I joined my local message boards and went to mommy meetups for those in my neighborhood that were due at the same time I was. It was exhausting to lug my ever-expanding self over to parts of town to meet with strangers, but I soldiered through confident that I would check off the “mom friend” list item.

At least I didn’t have to worry about one thing: since we were all pregnant, no one was drinking. I was new to the neighborhood, so no one knew that my abstaining was anything other than pregnancy related. The women were all friendly, but nothing really clicked. I felt the way I did when I was dating – putting myself out there, doing the work getting out of the house, being friendly and a good listener, and… nothing. An introvert at heart, every time I came home and sank onto the couch, I thought, “Why the hell am I bothering?”

I’ve been thinking about you all day.

Something I hear a lot in meetings – especially from women, is that they felt different and out of place as a child.   This was certainly the case for me. I was more or less born a tiny forty-year-old. I was strange. I was never comfortable.  Sure I made friends, and some very good ones at that. But in most situations where I met new people, they usually didn’t take to me right away.

And then? Alcohol. The great social lubricant that made me outgoing and charming. (Or at least it did in my own head). It allowed me to mix with people and be silly. It let me have fun. Until it didn’t.

So I have to find a different way to have fun. One of the best things I have found in sobriety is that I have become “me” again. The strange girl with a snarky sense of humor who loves knitting and writing and has zero interest in staying out late, or in what’s cool. But that’s not to say that I can’t still get out my tiny violin in these situations and replay my greatest hit — “People don’t like me.”

Once I had the baby, I had high hopes that we would now have things to bond over in the mom group. While I felt completely shell shocked by early motherhood, thanks to recovery meetings (and the internet) I knew that others were probably feeling the same way and we could all find relief in saying, “Yes! Me too!”

I did make some casual friends this way.  But I was the first to go back to work and the meetings continued without me. Once the others went back to work, they switched from meeting in a coffee shop to meeting in a bar for “girls night out”. While I have been able to hang at a bar with friends now and again, it is certainly not my preference. I recall the saying, “If you keep sitting in the barber’s chair, sooner or later you’ll get a haircut.” I knew my desire to be liked and to fit in was not a good match for this, and my one social outlet went away.

When I put my son in daycare I told myself I would try again with the moms there. But being back to work and then being with my son at night was exhausting and the excuses started piling up:

I’m already exhausted.

It seems like so much work to GO somewhere and have to be ON.

What if we don’t click?  

What if she’s a mommy wino?

Everyone just wants to drink and they’ll make fun of the fact that I don’t.

I can rationalize bringing sand to the desert. So I talked myself out of it time and time again, thinking “soon” or “next time” or “I’ll know my people when I meet them.”

Two years in and I do have some mom friends now. Here’s the advice I would give to my new mom self:

Don’t overlook what you already have

Through all my concern and frustration over not having mom friends, I was still texting my best friend daily, sometimes for hours at a time. She is a mom as well, though her son is older than mine. I was hung up on the idea of having mom friends whose babies were the same age, not realizing I was already getting the very thing that a mom friend provides – emotional support and a dash of humor. An additional bonus was that since her son was older, she wasn’t in a newborn fog and had some perspective so she could tell me what was normal. I still talk to her every day.

They don’t have to be local

Yes, it’s nice if they are because then you can make playdates and get yourself and your stir-crazy kid out of the house on a rainy day.   But that’s the role of your child’s friends, not necessarily yours. I met a great group of women in a sober mom’s group online and we definitely share all the things mentioned in these articles. Again, just because you can’t touch them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Not everybody is interested in drinking.

This is one where I had to see my part. I threw a very elaborate pity party for myself when the mom’s group switched to a bar group. What I didn’t think about was that not all of them were necessarily interested in that either. There were over 30 women in that group and I now know that a LOT of them are not big drinkers. It doesn’t occur to them. That possibility never entered my mind. I noticed the mommy winos because they stood out to me. My ears perked up more at someone talking about meeting up for drinks because I am sensitive to that, so I felt like it was EVERYONE instead of maybe 10% of them. The normies weren’t talking about booze because they weren’t thinking about it. I couldn’t fathom that, so they flew under my radar.

Keep trying

Helpful, I know. Here’s the thing – a lot of other moms have the same excuses going in their heads. I’m too tired. I have too much to do. Not enough time with family. I don’t know this person, why would I want to hang out with them when I could SLEEP? It’s not personal. She doesn’t know you so it’s not that she has anything against you. It’s just tough to motivate.

I often think of AA as an advanced course in Adulting. We learn to do what we can and not focus so much on what others do. We learn to do our part and let the rest go. As a person who loves to analyze everything to death, the simplicity of saying, “Have I done everything I can do here?” and leaving the rest has been really useful.

You don’t know what is going on in the life of the woman who bailed on your coffee date. If her marriage is falling apart or if she broke her toe, or if she’s had zero sleep and Just. Can’t. Do It. Giving her a little grace and trying again may turn out to be all that is needed. If not? On to the next. Don’t get into the game of, “But why does it always have to be me making the effort?” Because we never know what is going on with anyone else. If you want it, it has to be you.

You will keep meeting more

Don’t sweat it if it takes awhile. When you find the right ones these women will be in your life for a long time. Sometimes something that doesn’t click at first evolves over time. I eventually became friends with a couple of women I never noticed because they were both shy. But with running into each other while picking up our kids at the same time, or chatting at birthday parties we figured out we liked each others company.

Simply having a child exposes you to a whole new community of people, and over time the classes, playgrounds, and parties bring you to wonderful people who will become a part of your life.

And as you find your mom friends, make sure to keep an eye out for that mama who is struggling. The one with deep circles under her eyes at the coffee shop holding a newborn. Tell her she’s doing great, and that it gets easier. Wink at the mom in the supermarket with the kid throwing a tantrum and say, “You’ve got this” as you walk by. You never know when you will make a friend for life.

PS – Want to be my mom friend?  Subscribe in the sidebar.  See?  You’ve got one already.