Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fears tackled (or dirty dishes be darned!)

Facing my fears.
That's how I concluded my last blog post.
Of course I'm anxious about war and crime and homelessness and disease.
But are these the things that stress me out on a daily basis? Maybe. But maybe the all too common feeling of "overwhelm" is what really gets the fear ball rolling around on my court.
This morning I woke up to a full sink -- and counter-top --  of dishes.
My bathrooms were relatively clean, Halleluiah, and the floors were recently vacuumed, but the laundry hamper was overflowing and my kids were crying for socks and spoons and underwear.
(Never mind that maybe it's time to teach them to wash their own socks. And spoons. I'll save that blog post for another day)
And of course I was due in to work in exactly 90 minutes.
What I wanted to do was:  A. Call in sick and spend the day catching up. 2. Blame hubby or 3. Sit down and cry.
But since none of these options would address the sickening and ongoing sense of overwhelm that comes with working-parent territory, I decided to make good on my promise to "face my fears", jump in and tackled the dish pile.

This time, instead of drearily focusing on "scrub, Scrub, SCRUB!" I invited my mind wander to fun and recent conversations, upcoming plans and "weekend activities".
Of course you know the rest of the story. In very little time the dishes were rinsed and nestled in the dish washer. The returnables bagged, the recylables shuttled to their proper basket.
Best of all, I felt like a princess.
No, a queen. The queen of my domain. 

I haven't conquered my fear of fear or all those endless anxieties.
But now, at least I know I have the heart of a warrior.
OK. The hands of a warrior?
A weekend warrior?
Oh heck. I can confidently tackle a big, scary pile of dishes.
And today, that feels pretty good :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Family Anxiety: Childhood fears linked to parental stress?

My 11-year-old son is an avid Halloween enthusiast and has been since nearly birth.
Our family will never forget the year his near-obsession revealed itself, during the Halloween season of his 4th year.
Starting in about September, he jumped out of bed at 5:30 each morning, touting new ideas for the family and friends "Costume Contest".
A seating chart for the participants, complete with place settings and name tags was designated, along with the menu and guest list.
Long after Christmas 2006 had become just another journal entry, my little Halloween-o-phile continued to speculate on whether Batman, Dracula or the kid dressed up as a character from the Cars movie, would win the "Costume Contest's" next installment.
These days Halloween is still a magical holiday for good ol' No. 14.
But now, most of his creative energy is funneled into trying to build the scariest, house-front display in the neighborhood.
Obviously, he didn't inherit the fear factor gene that for many kids, comes with the season.
My 10-year-old daughter? That's a horse, err girl,  of a different color.
Purple to be specific. By day, she cheerfully dressed herself in a violet Afro, skinny pants, t-shirt and "sun" glasses to represent the color purple.
But night time was a different story.
During the nights leading up to Halloween, and on the great night itself, my typically sassy sistah, held me tightly under the covers of her cozy double bed, tearfully insisting that a warm, parental body be unconditionally provided.
Not just until she fell asleep.
But all night long.
Every time I got up up for a stealthy return to my own bed, she woke to unleash yet another breathy torrent of pleas: "stay with me!"
A day or two of extra special nuzzle time I understand.
But this had become a nightly arrangement of moaning, tears and hyper-ventilations of seeming unknown origin.
It wasn't until she said: "I feel anxious all the time!" that I started putting the pieces together
To quote the inspiring personal trainer Dolvett, of ""Biggest Loser" fame: "Kids pick up on the negative or positive energy that their parents send out."

No, Halloween doesn't make me jittery.
But wasn't I just telling a friend: "I'm always anxious!"
The mystery was solved: my little Lulu was picking up on the household anxiety I was unwittingly beaming out.
Now that's scary.
I guess its true what they say about having to "take care of yourself before you can take care of anybody else."
Reassuring my daughter that "everything was going to be OK" was the easy part.
Doing the same for myself is another matter.
To recycle one of my favorite, anonymous quotes: "I never said it was going to be easy. I said it would be worth it!"
One of my fellow bloggers, Jennifer Meyers recently asked: What are you afraid of?
Indeed. What am I afraid of? And once I figure it out: then what?
The jig is up.
Time to face the face in the mirror.
Ready. Set. Go.