Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Another Late Update

Sorry for the delay. I simply got distracted yesterday and forgot that it was Monday and therefore a posting day. Whoops!

Bean is finally better after over a week with a cold that quite simply kicked his ass. The doctor found no infection and his lungs were clear, so the fever was just his body fighting off the latest cold virus.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Comfort and Self-Care

Poor Bean is sick. He has been since last Wednesday, with a low-grade fever that just won't quit. The paediatrician was completely booked today, so his mother will be taking him tomorrow. We figure it's probably yet another ear infection, as those are the one thing he can't seem to shake for the life of him. It always takes antibiotics, even though ear infections are often said to clear up on their own. He hasn't complained of ear pain, but that's not necessarily significant with him--he's not much of a complainer when he's actually sick. We can always tell when he's truly under the weather, because he goes quiet. He spent most of last Wednesday cuddled up with his mother or me (whenever she wasn't available to cuddle), and has by all reports been extra clingy all week. I've been back at my job since Thursday evening, so I only have second-hand reports about all of this.

With any luck he'll have antibiotics tomorrow, and things will go back to normal. Selfishly I'm hoping he'll be ready to go back to daycare by the time I get back from work. I adore him, but having him at home 24/7 is mentally exhausting for me. When he's sick but not feeling too bad, his behavioural problems come out in force. There's even more shrieking and tantrums than usual, more outright refusal to do anything, and he gets extremely crabby and whiny and demanding, which, quite frankly, dances on my very last nerve. Also, a week of no school for him means he's not getting any social contact with other children, and it means his mother will also be fresh out of any remnant of patience. It's not good for anyone.

Monday, February 3, 2014

An Early Monday Update

I feel a little bad, actually, because once again I've arrived on a Monday with no subject in mind about which to blog.

Life has been a lot of the same for me lately: going to work, coming back, scrambling madly to get all the chores done (and failing), trying to spend some time with Bean, and then going back to work.

I did get to go to my first ever birthday party for one of Bean's friends whose parents weren't also friends of mine. This was a preschool friend, so it was kind of exciting for me to go. The parents had rented a room in the Children's Museum in Laval, which has an exhibit of all the different kinds of jobs you can have when you grow up. It didn't cover them all, but it covered a wide range, from farmer to policeman to astronaut to grocery store clerk to teacher to cook. There was also construction work and a very cool room devoted entirely to engineering and science with lots of bouncing balls that you could subject to gravity in varying ways. Bean had a blast in that room in particular.

I got to experience my very first "Mommy Wars" moment, too, which was unpleasant at the time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

When Your Boy Tells You He's Really A Girl

A friend linked us to this last week:

What Happens When Your Son Tells You He's Really A Girl

Bean has been insisting more and more than when he grows up, he's going to be a "mommy" or, sometimes, a "boy-girl." He's also told us he want to have nine children (all boys), but I think he might change his mind about that when he's older. ;)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Keep All Those Plates Spinning

I realise this blog has exactly one reader, but I feel I must nonetheless apologise for missing Monday's posting deadline. It's been a heck of a week, and by the time I had a minute to myself on Monday, it was already bedtime. On Tuesday I called in sick to work with a migraine and was mostly too out of it to update, and today I was back at work for a training session.

So, here you have it, a Wednesday update rather than a Monday one.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A very quick update

I've been trying to think of a topic to write about all week, and failing. I did promise I would update on Mondays, so that's what I'm doing, but I'm ashamed to admit I don't have anything to say. So instead of a thoughtful and well-composed entry, instead you'll be getting my stream-of-consciousness ramblings today.

Life has been incredibly busy lately. Work has been keeping me later than usual, and last week I had to get the car repaired the morning after. Then there was grocery shopping the same day, then next day my girlfriend and I spent the entire day doing our freezer cooking for the month. On Thursday I got up early and tried (unsuccessfully) to finish the freezer cooking, then packed up and left for my job.

I've been working steadily since then. So, in short, I haven't had time to do anything except run around like a crazed, headless chicken. I've been trying to fill what little free time I have productively, but it's been a struggle. Mostly I'm so tired I can't see straight.

In the past I wouldn't have felt guilty about taking a few hours for myself today, but that's no longer the case. I can't shake the feeling that my girlfriend is slowly coming to resent me more and more as time goes on. I'm pretty sure she's convinced that I do absolutely nothing with my time, that I'm forcing her to carry the load of caring for Bean and the house on top of having to go to school part-time. 

So I've been trying extremely hard to make myself useful when I'm home. I make a point of getting most of the groceries (though I don't think she sees it that way), of cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom and vacuuming when I'm home, and doing as much of the laundry I can. She does her own clothes and Bean's, but I try to get the linens and everything else along with my clothes. I try to make sure meals are prepared and ready, and I load, run and unload the dishwasher as much as I can.

Whatever I do, it never feels like enough. I'm away from home for five or six days at a stretch, and it must seem like I get to have a mini-vacation while I'm not there, because I have all this time to myself. Actually, because I work 12 hour shifts, it actually comes down to 12 hours of work, 1 hour of commuting time (on a good day, with no traffic; on a bad day it's more like twice that), 1.5 hours of cooking/dishes time, 1 hour of shower/other personal grooming, and half an hour of "free" time if I want to get 8 hours of sleep). But I can understand how it must seem like a sweet gig to someone who's not in my shoes. After all, I have no responsibilities outside of work and feeding myself, right? So, vacation.

Also, as usual, I'm worried about money. My girlfriend told me that she won't be getting money for Bean's daycare for several more weeks and that I would probably have to pay for February on my own, and then got angry with me when the announcement stressed me out. Bean's daycare costs more than my mortgage, for the record. It's almost as much as my paycheque.

I realise that she has no control over the money from the government (though her statement of "It's not like I spent the money on frivolous stuff!" is specious, as just before Christmas she told me she used some of it to buy presents because she felt "stupid" not having presents to give people "just because I'm poor."), but the anger she then directed at me felt unjustified. I wasn't accusing her, I didn't even say anything to her. I merely made the mistake of trying to work out how I was going to pull the money together on my own out loud. I suppose she felt I was attacking her, but I think I can be forgiven for being a little stressed when I'm told that I'm suddenly going to have to pull an extra thousand dollars (and more!) out of my ass on less than three weeks' notice.

I am going back to work in a couple of hours. Today I have extra "free" time because I'm flipping from a day shift to a night shift.

Tomorrow I have taken an appointment with a therapist. I am hoping that a couple of sessions a month and some "homework" for a while will help me learn better skills of emotional regulation and self-regulation. If there's one thing I've learned, it's not other people that are the problem, it's me. I can't change the people around me, nor should I, so the only thing I can change to help me be less frustrated and stressed is myself.

I need to simply learn to deal with the fact that my girlfriend thinks I'm a useless lump who trapped her in a life she never wanted (she hates having to take the language class that makes her eligible for the government money that lets us pay for Bean's preschool), and not let it get to me. In a couple of years, when she's finished her studies and it's time for us to consider the next big step in our lives, if she decides that living with me is still untenable, I'll be in a better position to help her make the best decision for her, and if she wants to leave me, I'll (albeit reluctantly) help her do that without suffering too many financial repercussions. I'm hoping that by then she'll have changed her mind, since with any luck she'll be studying something she loves by then and maybe not feeling as if I tricked/coerced her into ruining her life.

In the meantime, therapy seems like the thing to do. If I can learn how to manage my emotions, it'll be easier on all of us.

In conclusion, here is proof that, even after a 16 hour cooking day, we still know how to clean like pros. ;)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The New Year Has Arrived!

It was my birthday today. Happy birthday to me! I'm officially 35 years old, and to be honest I never thought in a million years that I would be where I am today at 35.

This is a good thing, in case you were wondering.

Overall, I am very blessed in my life. I have a family that I love, pets that adore me (and the feeling is mutual!), a steady job that I am unlikely to lose except under truly dire circumstances, and a house that is all my own if you don't count the mortgage. Both my parents are alive, in relatively good health (considering they're both in their seventies), still happily married and more than willing to poke their noses repeatedly into my life. I myself am in good health overall, am surrounded by good and supportive friends, and have a number of hobbies and activities that I find fulfilling in my life.

So, lots to be grateful for.

I've decided that 2014 is going to be a big year for self-improvement. This is technically not a New Year's Resolution, because I was already thinking about it in December, and I decided that rather than give myself an artificial start date and put off the self-improvement until January 1st, I was going to start right away. So that's what I did.

There is a lot about myself that I need to work on, but almost all of it boils down to chronic procrastination. Yes, I am part of the roughly 20% of the population who define themselves as chronic procastinators. Everyone procrastinates, of course. Anyone who says they never put off a single task they find aversive is either lying or deluding themselves. That being said, procrastinating once in a while is not the same as chronic procrastination. Procrastination, for me, has been a problem since my early teens, and at its worst it seriously affects not only my quality of life, but also the people around me who sometimes end up having to pay the cost of my having put things off.

What I noticed recently was that when I procrastinate, it's usually in the context of a self-defeating spiral of anxiety. I get anxious, so I procrastinate, which then makes me anxious, and then I procrastinate more. It's a form of short-term mood repair, but is ultimately very self-destructive. Furthermore, because I have an avoidant personality, I found that I was withdrawing more and more into myself as a result of the anxiety, and therefore not spending the kind of quality time with my family that I wanted. This was a big wake-up call for me. For the first time I have the family I always wanted, and I'm pulling away? No. This will not stand.

In light of this, I've been listening to the iProcrastinate podcast by Professor Tim Pychyl, whose website can be found at http://www.procrastination.ca. I happen to find the website itself kind of klunky in its design, but thus far I love the podcast itself. It's just the right mix of theory (academic and otherwise) and practical applications thereof for me, and has already offered some very good insights into the phenomenon of procrastination.

The one thing that has stuck with me since I started listening a few days ago is the idea that the feelings of guilt that stem from procrastination are actually the result of living in a way that's inauthentic to one's true self. This hit really close to home, and hard enough that it made me sit up a bit in the car (where I was listening to the podcast) and think that, yeah, that sounds exactly right. Putting things off, especially important things (and isn't it always the important stuff on which one ends up procrastinating?) always ends up with me either in a mad rush, or crippled by anxiety (which in turn results in more procrastination), and that's not who I want to be. I also have a huge problem with perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking (they go hand in glove) which in turn leads me to procrastinate ("If I can't do it perfectly/all at once, then I won't do it at all!")

That's why I decided not to wait until the New Year to work on my procrastination. I figured I would take Pychyl's advice and "just get started." I did have some projects that I put off starting, if only because I knew I didn't have the time and attention for them right then. January was just around the corner, and a sagacious delay is not the same as procrastination. As Pychylputs it: "All procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination."

One of the major components of ending procrastination, according to Pychyl, is to make what he calls an "implementation intention." It's essentially a concrete plan for oneself, framed either as an approach or avoidance goal (the former being preferable to the latter), the more specific the better. So if, say, I want to become more reliable about flossing my teeth, the process might look like this.

1- I want to floss my teeth regularly in order to have a sparkling white smile and because my mouth feels nice when I do it (Approach goal. An avoidance goal would be "I don't want to get gingivitis or have tooth decay." Avoidance goals are, apparently, psychologically harder to stick with).

2- Every night after I take my toothbrush out of the glass but before I brush my teeth, I will put down the toothbrush and floss my teeth first. (This gives me a concrete set of steps that will allow this to eventually become an unthinking habit, something to work into my nightly routine, and by not making it the last thing I do, it makes it easier for me to follow through on implementing my intention.)

So because there are lots of things about myself that I would like to change (most of them small, some of them big, all of them important in some way),I've been spending time coming up with not only a comprehensive list, but also coming up with a series of implementation intentions and strategies for the coming months. Changes need to be small and gradual, but also consistent.

The short list of stuff I have right now is as follows, in no particular order of importance:

1- Health habits (walking, eventually running, getting a grip on my mental health, etc.)
2- Writing (writing regularly, honouring writing commitments--fanfic and original--, finishing my work, submitting work for publication)
3- Knitting (working on more projects and rediscovering my enjoyment therof)
4- Family (spending less/no time on the computer when we're all home together)
5- Mindfulness (this may well fall under health habits, but I also want to focus on not letting negative thinking influence me as much)
6- Cooking (cooking more, mastering the art better, cooking more from scratch)
7- Housekeeping (keeping the house tidier than I currently am)
8- Work (actively pursuing career options, being more assertive about my job)
9- Friends (making a point of keeping in touch, which I am notoriously bad at)
10- Blogging (posting once a week, getting my thoughts organised, etc.)

Part of my resolution to post regularly in the New Year will be my commitment to all these changes. I want to be accountable for the changes I'm trying to make, and the only way to do that is to put myself out there and therefore honour my commitment. In fact, one of the first implementation intentions I'm going to make is one regarding blogging, and when/how I'll be able to post more regularly.

It's difficult for me to form habits because of my irregular schedule. I can't say "Every day at X time I shall do Y thing," because on some days I work from 5:30am to 5:30pm, on other days I work from 5:30pm to 5:30am, on other days I don't work at all, and some days are spent recovering from a night shift. So a daily routine is next to impossible. That being said, I think I can still find a way to form good habits and to get into a kind of routine, just one that isn't as conventional as it might be. I just have to figure out what works and what doesn't. I've been using a tool suggested by Pychyl known as the "unschedule," in which I plan my day backward, in a sense. I write down all the things that I know get done no matter what--morning routines, evening routines, meals, work times, etc., and then from there I figure out how much time is left over to do the rest. It's been working pretty well so far, though it needs some fine tuning.

So there you have it. This year is the year I plan to put an end to my procrastination once and for all. That way I will open up all that "extra" time to spend with my family, with Bean and my girlfriend and the pets, and hopefully free up some time to write about it here, and share all the exciting stuff happening in my life.