Twitter Facebook

Cognitively Distorted

On Friday I met with a therapist to talk about the dark cloud that follows me around like a certain wiener I know. I had my assessment on Thursday and thanks to some angel’s last-minute cancellation, they squeezed me in for therapy on Friday morning. As it turns out, I have a bit of a cognitive disorder.  Which I find fascinating, honestly.  At the end of the session, the therapist (I’ll call her Dr. Z even though I am not sure whether or not she is actually a doctor, it’s totally possible that she has a PhD, I didn’t think to ask) handed me this print-out of a list of ten cognitive distortions.

“Most people recognize three or four of these in themselves. Take a look at this and see which of these sound familiar to you.”

You guys, all but one of them hit the nail on the head. What a freaking wake-up call. It’s kind of been blowing my mind. Here’s a few:

All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

(Oh… that drop of ink. That awful, awful drop of ink. I know it well)

Emotional Reasoning:  You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

Personalization:  You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

So wait. Is this not how everyone feels all the time?

P.S. I sucked at NaBloPoMoFo (12/30 – hilarious), but it got me posting again and that was the point. For once, I’m not even torturing myself for my small failure. I have realized that I simply cannot do everything. Work full time, keep up our little home, study tort law, play with the dogs, play with my husband, spend time with friends and family, get enough exercise, and update a blog every day. I just can’t do it. Maybe some people can, and bless them. I don’t want to try and do it all every day anymore. I just want to find some balance.

All Sorts of Thievery

In reference to Kim’s comment on this post, yes. I do think robberies are that common, but only in the big cities. But you know big cities. I’m surprised I lived in NYC for four years and never got mugged. (But I did get masturbated-on in the subway.) Thievery and crime are common in big cities. My blue-haired niece was mugged in Paris this spring. She and a friend were at an ATM in the middle of the afternoon when they were accosted by a gang of kindergartners who got all their money out of the ATM and ran off. You just have to be careful in big cities.

We’ll only be in La Paz for a few days and we will be very careful. As for while we’re on the trail, I read that we might run into some ranchers with guns who make us pay a “toll” before we continue on, but as long as we pay they will let us go, no problem. For the record, I am getting all of my information from the U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. You can read it yourself and tell me if you think I’m running big colored crayons over reality. I might have a habit of doing that.

Besides. If we really have to worry about anything, it’s altitude sickness. (Do me a favor and don’t ever google “altitude sickness” when you’re getting ready to spend three weeks over 10,000 feet.)

This is very likely going to be the last time I post until … some time after we get back. It could be weeks. I have no idea what work is going to look like. I know I’m going to BlogHer ’11 less than a week after I return. No, I could not have planned those trips a little further a part, really, I would have if I could have. But it’s going to be fabulous and I am very excited about it.

I expect the next two weeks are going to be insane as we try to wrap up work, household, and last-minute Bolivia things. I just can’t keep every plate spinning, so I’m letting myself off the blogging hook. If I really had my sh*t together I’d have planned for some guest posts or re-posts of old favorites, and maybe I will magically pull my sh*t together enough for that before I leave, but I’m not going to bet on it.

Now would be a good time to add me to your RSS feeder if you haven’t all ready. Or if you don’t know what an RSS is, email me at aseriousgirl [at] gmail [dot] come and I will email you when I get back to the states and start blogging again. I mean, you’re going to be DYING to hear all about how this trip turned out, aren’t you? Won’t you just be quivering with anticipation? I sure would be.

And now I present to you:

712map

A map of South America. That I borrowed from this website. (I’ll take it down if they ask, I swear.)

Do you see Bolivia? In there between Paraguay, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, et al? That is where we’re going. Eleven days from today. (We’re going to have a safe and wonderful time. We’re going to have a safe and wonderful time. We’re going to have a safe and wonderful time.)

(This is me breathing.)

P.S. Dopey is in Kenya this month, helping to build a school for orphaned children. Dooce just back from Bangladesh, where she helped pregnant and birthing women who need medical care. I’m going for a freaking hike and I can’t even breathe. I think (hope!) this trip is going to be very good for me.

Housekeeping

This week I paid someone to clean my apartment.

I was really nervous about it. Hiring someone to do something that is my responsibility felt like a reflection of my personal shortcomings. And a terrible waste of money. Why pay someone to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing? Help is a threat! If I need help something is wrong with me. And then of course I was worried she would judge me or think I was a filthy pig, so I spent all weekend fighting the urge to scrub the apartment before she came over.

It’s not that I mind doing the housework. I actually really enjoy it. (Except for the part where I have to put my hand in a toilet.) It’s time I spend nurturing my little nest. Making sure all the pillows are fluffed and the towels are clean. I use the time to think and reflect and when I’m finished I feel like I’ve accomplished something really valuable. Plus, I love the way everything shines. And Mike is great about housework, always willing to help, and actually, he’s better about some of the chores than I am. So really, there is no excuse for someone to have to come in and clean our apartment for us. We are perfectly capable of cleaning this apartment.

But suddenly we find ourselves busier than we’ve been in our entire five years of marriage, living the kinds of lives when all we can manage to do with a night off is collapse on the sofa in front of old episodes of Law & Order. I’m so busy that I consider it a luxury to spend ten minutes shaving my legs and he spends every spare moment he has studying. And it’s great, we’re happy, we chose this, I’m not complaining!  But something had to give. Neither of us can work any less and Mike’s education is a priority for both of us. We’re not going to spend less time with family or friends – we don’t get enough time with them as is. So housework had to go.

And it’s not that we’re dirty people, because it doesn’t matter how busy I get, I tidy up like someone with serious OCD. I probably am a little OCD, clinically speaking, because if things aren’t just so, I will f-ing freak out. Everything has a place and when it’s not in it’s place my eyeballs twitch and I can’t breathe and it’s not very pretty.  I used to throw terrible tantrums because of socks on the floor or a dishtowel with a smear of spaghetti sauce on one corner. I’d cry and bang things and scream, “When you don’t put the dirty dish towel in the hamper I feel like you don’t love me!” But I don’t do those things anymore. I’ve learned. Now I tidy up constantly, all the time, I am always tidying. It’s easier for me to take five seconds to toss a dirty dishcloth in the hamper instead of screaming at Mike about it because really? He doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. Especially since I’m the one with the problem. But when I’m working this much and he’s working and going to school and we’re trying to maintain healthy social lives and get adequate exercise and all that other stuff, even if we can maintain the basic chores like laundry and dishes and litter boxes and dog walks and paying bills on time, we can’t manage the big things like shower scrubbing and floor mopping. And when those things get ignored and start growing orange fur, my skin starts itching and I  wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding and adrenaline coursing through my veins from nightmares about dead babies in filthy bathrooms crawling with cats.

So you see, it’s not really an option to give up on the housework. And that is why we are paying someone to clean the apartment for us.

You guys. She cleaned things I haven’t even had time to imagine cleaning. She scrubbed the teakettle so now I can see my reflection in it. She did all the dirty work in the bathrooms that I loathe and despise, and then she polished my perfume tray. She moved everything off of every shelf and surface area and dusted behind and underneath and around. She washed the screen door and the windows and she scrubbed the balcony, in addition to emptying the dishwasher, taking down the trash, and mopping the floors. What would’ve taken me twenty-four hours of work, broken up only by naps, she finished in four and a half hours. She is a miracle worker. I invited her to come back in two weeks. And then I hugged her and cried on her shoulder while wads of sticky anxiety flowed off of me.

In the aftermath of this stunning cleaning symphony, I lounge on the balcony, blogging, feeling completely relaxed because not only is the shower cleaner than it’s been in two months, I didn’t have to do any of the work.  The only thing better than a freshly scrubbed toilet is a freshly scrubbed toilet someone else scrubbed. I don’t get manicures or pedicures, I never go to the spa, I don’t get any of my parts waxed, I only get my hair cut twice a year, we hardly ever go to the movies or out for dinner, but we pay someone else to clean our apartment and as far as I’m concerned, that is more luxurious than any manicure or facial ever could be.

A Little Bit Anxious

frisky

When Valentine feels anxious, she humps the pillows. It’s a lot more awkward if I do it.

I don’t even know how to begin this post. Except, maybe I do. I just feel sort of weird getting all honest about my feelings up in this hizzy.

You guys mean a lot to me. Like, a lot. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the other day I read a post from Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary where she talks about how blogging not only gives her a creative release, but it has helped her create a little community in her heart, full of people she knows and cares about, even if she’s never met them in real life before. She described perfectly how I feel about this place, this blog I write in and once in a while pour my heart into. Ok, maybe not once in a while, maybe all of the time, even if my heart is all about new apartments and wieners, it’s still my heart. And I put it here on the Internet and you come by and check it out and then you’re all, “Hey, I totally understand what you’re talking about.” Or maybe you’re like, “Dude. Don’t get it at all, but that’s cool.” Whatever you say, you pretty much always say something that makes me feel good, even if I started out feeling bad. And I can’t find words enough to accurately describe how much that means to me.

The other day I thought my MacBook died and it made me feel like someone had just pulled my stomach out through my nose. This is the opposite of that.

So when I disappear for a few days, like I did last week, it’s not because I don’t care or I’m too busy or anything like that. Maybe it never even occurred to you, I don’t know, but when I disappear for a few days, I always feel like I’m letting you down. Or like I’m letting me down. After all, I am the one who needs this, needs you.

Last week was kind of tough. Not because anything horrible happened, nothing bad happened at all, it was actually a really nice week. Off the top of my head I can think of more than fifteen awesome things that happened, and yet? I spent nearly every day with a constant feeling of impending doom crowding my heart. And I was having panic attacks. Dear Goldfish, panic attacks are awful. If you’ve never had a panic attack, I hope you never have one. One minute I’m wandering around with a feeling of impending doom, but it’s a dull aching feeling of impending doom and I’m basically able to go about my business, mostly ignoring it, and then, out of nowhere, a thought will pop into my head. Usually it’s something ridiculous and farfetched like, “I only have a period every forty days, so I must be infertile. Normal healthy women have their period every twenty-eight days. My ovaries are drying up. I’m never going to have a baby.”

Was that TMI? Too deep of a glimpse into the inner-crazy that is my head? Maybe it was. But how do you think I feel? I have these thoughts and then I think, what’s wrong with me? Why am I obsessing over something that I basically just invented? The thought of having kids right now is not even on our radar – ok, it’s CONSTANTLY on my radar, but we’re not in a position to have kids, so it’s a big fat moot point. Do you see? Even just telling you about this makes me feel like a crazy person. And then I hate myself.

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

So I have these thoughts and then the next thing I know my heart is pounding so loud it’s taken over the space in my head where the thoughts used to be and my limbs are vibrating with adrenaline and I can’t draw a breath or see anything but static. That’s usually when I start wandering around the house freaking out because someone left socks on the floor and why the hell did Michael leave my bra on the table?

He didn’t, I remind myself. I left it there. But it’s so much better if I can blame it all on him! I argue with myself. I am losing my mind.

And that’s why I haven’t written anything for the last few days. Because I was afraid if I sat down and said hello, I’d start writing all this crazy talk about all of the f-ed up stupidness that makes me wake up in the middle of the night with a pounding heart and electric shocks of adrenaline rushing through my legs. Fight or flight, even in my sleep.

I’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety, so my saying I have anxiety isn’t a medical diagnosis or whatever, it’s just what it f-ing feels like. Horrible, awful anxiety. For no real reason. Yes, there’s anxiety about work, there’s anxiety about money, there’s anxiety about everything. That’s life, I totally get it. You can’t live a normal life and be free of anxiety. But this is anxiety over stupid shit, and so it makes me feel like I have a mental illness.

What do you think? Do you hyperventilate over stupid stuff like I do? Or do you have no idea what I’m talking about and suggest I seek therapy?

Crazy Crazy Baby Crazy

In 2008 I was so baby-crazy I could hardly walk in a straight line. I wanted a baby so badly I could taste it – I felt it in every cell of my body, ever fiber of my being, as if my ovaries had taken over my brain and were sending me not-so-subliminal messages to procreate! Procreate! PROCREATE NOW OR DIE.

Looking back on it, I’m sure it was all hormones. It was a feeling in my body so overwhelming that I really can’t imagine it was anything but hormones. We didn’t have a baby then because we were living paycheck to paycheck, we couldn’t afford healthcare, and I didn’t want to have a baby 3,000 miles away from my family.  When we decided to move back to Los Angeles in 2010, we decided we’d try for a baby the following fall. I wanted to try and prepare myself for the task, so I picked up “What to Expect Baby’s First Year,” and then in November I started taking pre-natal vitamins. FYI: I never made it past month two in that book about babies. WTF that sh*t is scary! The more I think about babies, the more nervous I get. A baby is a ginormous responsibility. Huge. Life-changing. Marriage-changing. When I think about babies now, I feel nothing but terror. Next fall is like, six months from now. We live in an apartment with old, filthy, germy carpeting in the valley. Where there are earthquakes. We live paycheck to paycheck. We can’t afford health care. And we have absolutely no idea when we won’t be living paycheck to paycheck, if we’ll ever be able to afford healthcare, or if we’ll ever be able to buy a house. Mike told me last night that the Obama administration wants to dissolve Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which apparently means that it will be impossible for regular people like us to buy a house. Which means we’ll be living in a shitty apartment with germy carpeting for the. rest. of. our. lives. A baby? Six months from now? Hells to the N-O.

Also? I worry about what kind of a world we’d be bringing that child into. This country is kind of a mess right now, let’s be perfectly honest. I know there are much worse places to live than the United States of America, but still. Our education system is in the toilet, the economy is in the toilet, healthcare is in the toilet, there are no jobs, once eradicated horrible diseases are reappearing with a vengeance, gas prices are going up, and the majority of Americans think people like Snooki and Paris Hilton poop gold, when they ought to be looking up to people like, oh, I don’t know, Martin Luther King Jr. or Abraham Lincoln. Of course, they’re dead, but even I can’t come up with the name of a single current American hero. Is that because there are none? Or am I just painfully ignorant? And if I’m so painfully ignorant, should I really be breeding? And if I’m not painfully ignorant and I should be breeding, how do I know that if I have a baby in the next five years I won’t be raising him or her in a country where only the filthy rich have access to medicine, safe food to eat, or clean water to drink?  How do I know whether I can keep them safe from war and disease and climate change?

Then I think about all the risks involved with having a baby. What if it’s not born healthy? What if it is born healthy and then dies of SIDS? And what about me? I could get pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, I could bleed out giving birth, or even in the best case scenario, I could have a perfectly normal pregnancy but spend all of it puking every fifteen minutes. Not to mention, if you’ll allow me to be completely superficial and vain for five seconds, I could wind up covered in stretch marks with a flesh-apron instead of a stomach. THAT HAPPENS.

You guys, I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe we should just stick to dogs. This terrible thing that happened in Japan last week, the oil spill last summer, Libya, Egypt, Afganistan, Sara Palin, reality TV, blizzards, car accidents, murder, rape, it’s too much. It’s too terrifying. How can I justify bringing a defenseless, tiny, innocent child into a world like this? It’s a gigantic, life or death, enormous, huge, risky gamble. And I HATE gambling.

What do you think? Am I crazy? Am I focusing on all the negative and ignoring the positive? What is the positive? I know that a lot of you are totally pro-baby, and I miss being baby-crazy, so seriously, I need to know what you think. Because I really don’t like what I think.

***Updated***

And then I read things like this and my uterus practically crawls out of my body to go get fertilized. My friend George told me it’s imperative that I have children, so that I can raise world-conscious people who have the potential to make a positive impact on this earth. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I should focus on the love, not the terror.

Sat on a fence but it didn’t work

I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately.  And not even pressure from an outside source, just pressure from within.  I’ve been kind of a freaked-out blob lately.  It’s not pretty.

Except that’s not entirely true.  “Freaked-out blob” implies that I’ve spent the last two weeks eating ice cream in the same pair of dirty sweat pants day after day.  While that is certainly how I’ve been wanting to spend my time, instead I’ve actually been relatively productive.  I started running again.  High-five!  My plan is to fit into my pants again by Memorial Day.*  I also worked a lot this week.  A lot.  More than I’ve worked in a while.  And?  I went out with friends, saw a movie and had drinks afterward.  Right there is more activity than I have participated in since the end of January.  I should be exhausted, and I am, but I didn’t end there, you guys.  I also had two snow days in the last week, took tons of photos, kept my apartment clean, washed three loads of laundry, balanced my checkbook, updated my monthly budget sheet and ran errands.

And while that’s great and everything, did I really accomplish anything?  You know what I didn’t do?  My taxes.  Also?  I’m just barely keeping in step with assignments from work, getting them done in the nick of time, that is unacceptable I should be weeks ahead on all of my assignments.  Also?  I haven’t trimmed my toenails in two weeks, I haven’t checked my Facebook page since February and I went four days without shaving my legs.  FAIL.

Is this normal?  I mean, I assume that everyone feels the way that I feel, that I’m not the only person who expects to get it all done perfectly all of the time.

It’s a lot of pressure.

So that’s where I’ve been.  I’ve been trying, managing, ticking things off one at a time and breathing deeply, namaste.  In case you didn’t notice, one of things on my to-do list that didn’t get done was –

Hi! I’m posting! And did you like the photos?  It’s Friday!  I posted!  And I have news!

There is a project in the works, a project that came about thanks to writing that’s happened on this site, a career-type job-ish, and it’s really exciting and totally terrifying.  I’ll tell you all about it next week, when it launches, god willing.  Until then, here’s to a weekend that will hopefully have at least one morning where I can sleep in past six.

*Between the end of November, when our CSA ended, and the end of January, I gained enough weight that even my bras stopped fitting. What. The. Expletive.