Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Good Life

Some days, I feel great. I'm grateful for life, enjoy my daughter, love my friends and family, I enjoy what I'm doing. I get things done but don't freak out.

And then there are the many other days when I just want to crawl into bed. I resent everything, I'm overly grumpy, etc.

Sounds like depression, right? True. But I'm on an anti-depressant. What I've found, beyond medication, is that there are certain things I do that can contribute to or detract from my contentment. Here are my rules for creating the good life:

1. Limit TV. I love TV. And I am highly skeptical of people who want me to live without it. But I have found my joy level falls if I watch more than 1-2 hours of TV. Mindless TV viewing is a joy-kill for me. I do it sometimes, because I'm tired or lazy or just can't handle much else. But it never makes me feel better. In fact, if I'm feeling good, it will seep the energy from me.

2. Same for the Internet. Too much time online = discontented me.

3. Too much caffeine. I love coffee, but some mornings now, I have decaff because I've learned even one cup of coffee can jack up my anxiety level. Other mornings, one or two cups are perfect to perk me up and help me get going. But if I drink even half a cup more without thinking...I get very edgy, and that makes for bad parenting.

4. Doing anything makes me feel better. If I can get just one thing done each day, I'll feel better. Even if it's just a load of laundry or one room cleaned. Small accomplishments help me feel useful in the world.

5. I need work. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I work sporadically, mostly when we need money. But I've learned I feel better when I'm doing some work - as long as it's not keeping me up with long hours. I like to work. I like to make money. I like to use my brain. When I don't, I slowly lose my mind.

6. Do not finish the bottle of wine. Sometimes, I get a bottle of wine for my husband and myself. Sometimes, I get in an "I don't care" mood and will finish the bottle. This is rare, but it's always bad. Having a good glass of wine now and then adds to the richness of a simple life. Having too much makes me feel icky and grumpy - then the next day, I want to slip into "do nothing" mode, which means I'm missing out on life experiences.

7. Don't overplan. I get in these moods where I decide we're going to go out more, do more, etc. I make huge lists and big plans. And then I just don't have the energy to throw a big dinner party or drive to another city for a special event. Now, I write down events by date - so today, we can go to a local festival, go swim or go listen to a book reading at the book store. We may not do any of these, but I know what's going on if we do want to do something. If I want to have someone for dinner now, I just plan an easy meal - spaghetti, etc. - and invite them that day on the spur of the moment.

8. Rather than talk on the phone when I'm lonely, go visit someone - or just take my daughter out for some fun. I tend to want to stay at home. Going out for even a short shopping trip helps me stay in the flow of life. My daughter is old enough now that it's actually fun to take her places. Sometimes, I forget this and get stuck in that baby-mode, where you have to worry about hauling around heavy baby equipment and naps.

9. Make time for my family and friends. This may sound like a weird thing from a SAHM, but sometimes I get so busy in accomplishing goals or cleaning, I forget to spend time with my husband as a spouse, rather than a roommate. I forget to go out with my friends and enjoy them as complex women, not just mothers I can meet for an easy playdate.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Toxic Relatives

Family conjures up a range of emotionals issues. For the most part, when we think "Family," society tells us we're supposed to have warm, fuzzy, safe feelings. But really, families are much more complex and the very word can conjure up conflicting feelings of love, abandonment, resentment, safety, fear, hate and happiness, depending on your experience of family or even just upon which family members you're talking about.

I've read quite a bit on dealing with toxic people, and most of the advice involves cutting them out of your life. That's fine if it's a co-worker or a friend, but with family, it's harder. First, they may not be toxic to everyone in your immediate family. You may see them when you attend family events. They may have legal rights to see your children. Or you may not be able to do it psychologically able to do it because they are your family and perhaps have so poisoned you, you simply don't know how to walk away from the abuse.

Or if you're me, you may be married to someone who has a hard time walking away. And you may feel very, very guilty about wanting them to. Which is exactly where I am today.

This is how you recognize a Toxic Person:
Toxic people are extremely negative, nasty, miserable, whiny, jealous, inconsiderate, financially irresponsible, selfish, and abusive. They can be criminally minded, mentally ill, or just plain evil. Toxic people are also the ones that abuse alcohol or drugs and then hurt other people. The toxic individual exudes the dark side of human nature all of the time. They cause other people pain, craziness, and aggravation. They are not hard to recognize. Just take notice of how you feel when you are around one of these people. It will be easy to determine. You will immediately feel sick and experience physical symptoms like a headache or stomach pain. Or you will just feel like you are going crazy, but don't worry that is the true mark of being with a toxic person. Remember this so that you will be better able to identify a toxic person. That is the first step towards eliminating one from your life. -
from Dealing with toxic people

This is exactly how these people affect me, my husband and everybody else who knows them.

With the Holidays coming up, it will be harder to avoid Toxic Relatives. This piece offers some advice for deciding whether to attend events where you know you'll see Toxic Relatives. It suggests you ask simply whether opting out would feel "freeing or binding" for you. If you feel relieve, dont' go. Then it discusses how to address the guilt that may result. The article also suggests you "divorce" toxic relatives, which I just love.

I like the idea of doing a gut check. Recently I read that you can quickly make decisions on even complicated questions by simply asking what will bring you peace. It's a variation on that theme. For me, it would bring me peace to divorce these people and ignore any contact from them for the rest of my life.

One more note: If you've cut a Toxic Family member out of your life, ABC wants to talk to you. Good luck.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Candy: Treat AND Trick

I'm probably not the only one staring at a ton of Halloween candy this morning, wondering how I'm going to keep my daughter from a sugar-induced coma. Fortunately, this is exactly the weird sort of issue the Internet is good for resolving.

So I Googled what to do with Halloween candy and found a few entries on the topic. They seem to fall into two categories: Treat your children over the course of months by dolling the candy out piece-by-piece or trick your children by tossing it, giving it away or convincing them to trading the candy for toys.

"Ten Things to do with All That Halloween Candy," published on Parenthood.com, offers the best suggestions and is frequently linked to and quoted on various sites, including lifehacker.com.

Here's a list of my favorite suggestions, culled from various websites and blogs:
  • Use your Halloween candy for lunch treats; let your child choose a treat each day for one week after Halloween. Parenthood.com

  • Have the children fill up bags of candy and take it to their teachers for school time treats throughout the year. Parenthood.com

  • Allow your child to select one, two or three pieces per day from a bag, but make them have a glass of milk or water for each treat. Kidshealth.

  • Fill a coffee can with candy and bring it to your local nursing home, homeless shelter or a charity for the staff to enjoy. I'm thinking of dropping some off at the local Ronald McDonald house. Parenthood.com.


  • And finally, here's a quirky list on how to manage your Halloween stash.

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