Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The straw

I've had a rough few months. I've been avoiding the blog a bit just because I don't want everything I put on here to be negative. I'm trying to keep perspective, as there are so many good things I have going on in my life. But this morning, I broke. It's been a series of alternating large and small catastrophes, and although this morning was a very small issue, it just opened the floodgates for me.

Things that have been on my mind:
1). Family stuff. I talked about some of it a bit before, but there is much more to the story. There are two ongoing issues with my family. One, the one I mentioned in May, is doing better. There is another issue that is getting worse. I don't want to talk about either right now, but needless to say, I think about them a lot.

2). The car. It started with the $1400 worth of work, followed the next day by the deer accident. We are having my car fixed as we speak. But, $1400 for the original work, $500 for the insurance deductible, and another 1200-1600 before winter, and my 130k mile car is becoming a money pit. As I said before, everyone has said that it should run forever after this. All I have to say--it better.

3). Work. I had my thesis committee meeting last week. It went ok. At the end of the meeting, my chair said that it had been my best meeting, and that he could tell how enthusiastic I was about the project. That's a stark contrast to how the meeting actually went. First, it went for two hours, when it is only supposed to go for one. Second, my old boss was there, and things were tense. He stopped me on every slide and questioned everything from how I worded sentences to why I didn't do my calculations a certain way to why I wasn't focusing more on the experiments he wanted done. He's a diabetes guy, and we are a cardiac lab, so he wanted more endocrine and we are focused more on the heart. Despite having a ton of data for a six month span, he wasn't satisfied with a single slide. And, in exactly the same way it happened in the old lab, the committee let him go to town. Not a single one of them, not even the chair, stopped in to redirect him. I got grilled by him for two hours. I wasn't shocked, but that meant that the entire meeting missed the forest for the trees. Instead of focusing on what I had done, it focused on what I hadn't done. That makes it awfully hard on me to talk about my work.

4). Work, part two. Really, the lab is a million times better than it was when I worked for my old boss. But I am swamped. I have the experiments I was planning to do, plus experiments that my committee wants me to do. And I have a ton of papers I need to read. It's just off the hook busy. I really need a little time to collect my thoughts and plan out experiments. I don't have any in the near future.

5). Sophie. I love her dearly, I do. But last week she was sick, which compounds with the general toddler tantrums we've been dealing with. I stayed home with her on Friday, and against my better judgment, I took her to the doctor. She had an upper respiratory virus, no ear involvement, and her lungs were clear. So basically she has a fever and a cold. Since taking off work adds to the stress of #3 and #4 above, it wasn't fun. I really feel bad complaining about her--I know she's just a baby, and can't help it when she feels bad--but she's been more than a handful recently.

6). Sleep. Or lack thereof. I sleep terribly to start with, and all of the stress has only made that worse. I'm getting 3-4 hours in a good night, and a lot of that is interrupted sleep.

7). Food. I am not happy to say this, but I've really fallen back into using food as comfort the past few months. And it shows. I've gained about 5 pounds since May. I've been trying so hard to work on what I eat and how much exercise I get, but every time a new stressor pops up, I start eating again. I can't explain it if you've never struggled with it. It's like an out of body experience. I'll be eating and not even realize it. All of a sudden I snap out of it, look at the food in front of me, and wonder how much I've already put down. I've started relearning some of the strategies I used in therapy a few years back. The last thing I need is to redevelop my eating disorder.

8). Personal issues. There is one other major thing I am struggling with, but I don't want to put it up here. It's a big topic of debate, not pitting Tim and I against each other, but we're each struggling with how to make the best decision with the information we have. We're fine, don't worry. But talking about the unknown really messes with my control issues.

So none of these issues, or some of the smaller ones I am dealing with, are life threatening. I've been trying to just get past them one at a time. The money issues have been painful, but I've tried not to fall into self-pity too much. I look around at what other people are dealing with and try to be grateful for what we do have.

And then, times like this morning come about. To move away from using food as comfort, I've gotten back into my garden. We had planned to build a big garden this year, but it didn't happen. I got a late start on my seeds too. But, Tim's mom gave me a few plants, and I bought a few plants on clearance this past weekend. Those added to some little seedlings I did have were really starting to grow. I had a pepper plant with about 6 green peppers that were almost ready to pick. I had a nice banana pepper on its way. My tomatoes were really starting to plump up. I had beans, zucchini, squash, and a few others starting to fruit. I pruned and fertilized them last night, and I was looking forward to my first harvest in about a week.

I woke up this morning and looked out the window. The deer had completely decimated my plants. They stripped the pepper plant of every single fruit and leaf, leaving only a few empty stems. The banana peppers were gone. All of my zucchini, squash, bean, and pea plants were gone. More than half of the tomato plant was eaten. I was left with one little tomato, a few herbs, and a bunch of empty stems.

I just lost it. Gardening has been very cathartic for me. I get to plant and nurture, and I actually get to see results. Plus, I had been looking forward to saving us money. For less that $20, I was planning on a big harvest. Now, I have one sad tomato. I don't even like tomatoes! I planted them to make some salsa with my peppers and herbs. And now I'm stuck without any of them.

I know that losing my garden isn't the end of the world. But it was the one small hobby I had, and the one thing that I could do and see a yield. And now it's gone.

That just drained me. As I was driving in this morning, I could feel myself going into survival mode. I disconnected from all of my emotions. I gave up.

I hate when I do this. I'll put on the happy face at work or out in public. I'll do whatever is needed of me. But I am completely emotionally vacant. I show no pain, but I can't enjoy things either.

I've gone into survival mode many times in my life. I think there were entire years that I spent just getting by. It's not fair to me, and it's not fair to people around me. And now that I have a daughter, it's not fair to her. I need to find a way to stay emotionally plugged in. I just don't know how.

I'm not going to replant the garden. There's no point. It's now mid-July, and I got a late start as it is. We had wanted to get a fence this year. We had saved up money to pay for it. The teaching I did at Hiram, the clinical trials I started last year--all that money had been banked for a fence. And now it's gone into the car. I hate borrowing money, and I won't do it unless it's for a basic necessity. The mortgage is the only debt we have. But this morning, as I stared at the plant wasteland caused by destructive deer, I wanted a fence almost more than I've ever wanted anything.

I told Tim that the fence had to come in under a certain number. With all of the fence contractors we've interviewed so far, none have hit that number. And then the car fell apart. So we thought about putting the fence on hold.

Now I want to put one in tomorrow. It's not logical--the damage is done, and putting in a fence won't make my plants magically reappear.

And I'm not proud of it, but for one painful second, I understood the elderly woman who beat a deer to death in her garden. I would never, ever harm an animal, but for a moment I saw how someone could go over the edge. After the deer incident with the car, and now with my garden, I would be much happier if I didn't see one for the rest of the summer.

The garden was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I don't know now what I'll do in terms of a hobby. Sad as it may be, the garden was something I could do myself, after Sophie went to bed, for just a few minutes a night and a few hours a week. Without it, I lack another stress release. I know a lot of people get it from exercise--I've never been one of those people. Ever. And I've tried. Exercise just gives me time to ruminate on my thoughts. Gardening was very zen--I was able to just tune out the world.

I don't know how I am going to get out of this funk. I can't take any time off work. And even when I do, that just means I catch up on cleaning and other things around the house. Not relaxing. I need to find time to catch up with myself. But when I do try to take some time, I spend most of it feeling guilty that I'm not spending time with Sophie. I don't get to see her near as much as I'd like, especially during the week.

I'm not sure where to go from here. But for now, survival mode is going to have to be the plan. I have obligations. I can't just pause life until I get myself together. I'll have to figure it out as I go.

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