Sabbatical anxiety and a to-do list

In a weird twist that comes from enjoying my job, I’m having a little anxiety about the whole “not working for three months” thing.

I’ll also admit to a bit of guilt that I have this opportunity at all. To put it in perspective, the last time I took three months off, I had a baby. There was the sense of having “earned it” by virtue of growing another human being in my womb for forty weeks, enduring a painful labor, and slogging through weeks of sleep deprivation.

For this? All I had to do was work at my flexible nine-to-five for five years. From home. In my pajamas. And occasionally travel to places like Italy or Hawaii.

So I’m feeling pressure to be productive, to earn my keep as I join Tim in temporary stay-at-home-ness. I wouldn’t want to waste the time off by, you know, relaxing. Heaven forbid! 😛

(My therapist will hear all about this, at which point she’ll probably roll her eyes and ask where to send the bill for the next six years because we’ve obviously made no progress whatsoever.)

(I’m kidding. She’ll be sweet and understanding and remind me that I’ve earned this time off just as much as I did when I had Gwen or Ellie. She’s a professional, she’ll keep the eye roll to herself. And maybe book a vacation on my tab.)

In the meantime, enter my favorite coping mechanism: list-making! An attempt to organize my thoughts and make some semi-concrete plans for the next twelve weeks.

  • Read 5 books
  • Catch up on fanfic reading
  • Draw 36 things (that’s roughly three things per week)
  • Lake time!
  • Footlocker coffee table project
  • Paint kitchen island w/ chalkboard paint
  • Ceramics painting
  • Girls’ weekend in Portland
  • Visit Halifax
  • Visit Fredericton
  • Visit Quebec City
  • Massachusetts trip to visit friends
  • XF cast at Comic Con (?)
  • 10th wedding anniversary weekend somewhere…?
  • Finish watching Breaking Bad
  • Meditate every damn day
  • Refresh my long-lost French with Duolingo
  • Various house projects that have gone ignored for many months
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I put my real weight on my driver’s license.

The other day I realized that my driver’s license needed to be renewed and updated with my new address, so I spent some quality time at the DMV.

I don’t look at my driver’s license very often (obviously, since it had been expired for three weeks, and the address was two years old). I use my passport for most identification purposes, and my license stays in my purse.

Thing is, my address wasn’t the only thing that was out of date. My weight was listed at 180.

That is a laughable number in its inaccuracy. I haven’t weighed 180 since I was in high school.

I distinctly remember the last time I had to renew my license in 2012, being nervous about that part. When the question about my weight came up — Is your weight still correct? — I probably mumbled something like, “Uh, yeah, sure,” and left feeling relieved that I hadn’t been called out.

In hindsight, what self-respecting person was going to question me? It’s not like they put me on a scale, everyone carries weight differently, and (possibly most important) no one really cares because using weight for identification purposes is ridiculous.

The reason I remember that fleeting interaction is because of the immense shame attached to my then-weight (which, ironically, was a lot less than I weigh now). That shame controlled so many aspects of my life — how I ate, what I wore, how I exercised, my mood, how I interacted with people — that it put a stranglehold on my happiness.

Unsurprisingly, feeding that guilt did the opposite of what I wanted. I didn’t shrink — I grew. I didn’t feel happy when I lost weight — I felt sad. Food was both my best friend and my worst enemy, and it wasn’t until I started therapy and started untangling the roots of my unhappiness did I realize I’d sabotaged all my best efforts out of fear and shame.

The thing is, my real weight starts with a 3 these days. A three. It’s not an insignificant number.

So yesterday, when the dreaded question came up — Weight’s still 180, right? — I said, “No, actually, it’s 300.”

No shame. No more hiding in fear from a number. Owning it.

I’m not saying I’m healthy now — health is a relative concept, anyway, and one that we as a society too often confuse with worthiness. I’m not saying I’ll never diet again, or that I don’t doubt myself from time to time.

What I’m saying is: I have to love and respect who I am right now, in this moment, no matter what my body looks like, no matter what number shows on the scale. That is the only way forward.

I took this photo in October. I don’t know why I was moved to photograph myself in a bathing suit, of all things, at a time when I was traveling; swollen, bruised, fatigued. It is quite possibly the worst photo I’ve ever taken of myself, but it’s interesting that I still chose to take it, and keep it, and looking at it doesn’t fill me with disgust.

This is me at my heaviest, including pregnancies.

This is me, controlling my anxiety and depression with therapy and medication, rather than food.

This is me, unashamed of my body for the first time in my life, and feeling great about it.

And while self-love is a great accomplishment, it doesn’t fit in the three-digit space on my driver’s license, so I’m doing the next best thing: Owning my weight, whatever that may be.

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2015 in review

Well, unlike 2014’s “maintenance year”, 2015 has been a doozy. I wanted to say something elegant or profound to sum it up, but looking back through my posts, I’ve done a lot of navel-gazing already, so I’ll keep this list-like.

I set out to make 2015 the year of being kinder to myself, and I think I’ve succeeded in that. I’ve become better at questioning my thoughts to the point where I can defuse most unkind inclinations before they take root. I still have anxiety, and I don’t think that will ever go away, but it’s had less of an impact thanks to healthier ways of coping. So, A+ on the mental health front this year. Kudos, brain, for not being such a dick!

My dad passed away suddenly in the spring, which prompted a lot of introspection and shuffled my priorities in a big way. I’m coming out of this year feeling like a changed person, with a new appreciation for my family’s resilience.

I celebrated fifteen years with this guy, who went through some major changes of his own. Tim left his job at Automattic to stay home and be my houseboy a full-time parent and writer, and I’m grateful and glad we made that happen.

Meanwhile, I now lead the Theme Team and am privileged to work with truly awesome people at a company that continues to make me proud to be part of it (we’re hiring!) I worked on approximately 32 themes, and I think my favorite of the bunch is Libre.

This year, Ellie started first grade and Gwen started Pre-K, and having two school-aged children in the house — and out of the house — is surreal (or maybe we’ve just forgotten what silence sounds like). I love that they’re old enough for us to have common interests; I spent most of Christmas break playing Exploding Kittens and building LEGOs. We’ve had our fair share of struggles — they’ve grown not only in inches, but in opinions — but at the end of each day, when I tuck them into bed (sometimes for the fifth or sixth time…I’m looking at you, Gwen) and tell them I love them, I mean it from the bottom of my (sometimes grouchy Mama) heart.

My favorite TV show of all time is coming back! The X-Files is my indulgent escape from reality. I’m going to miss mulling over spoilers and set pictures and speculative fanfic when the revival ends. Until then, I’ll just be over here, fangirling.

Speaking of fangirling, I finished my X-Files trilogy after nearly two years of writing and revising and revising and revising. I also wrote a few short fics.

I revamped Calobee Doodles, and barely drew enough to continue calling myself an illustrator. I need about six more hours in a day to keep up with all these hobbies!

I finally settled into our house and spruced it up a bit.

I spent more time with friends.

I surprised myself and got a tattoo.

I’ve traveled to Hawaii, Park City, Boston, Keswick, Lisbon, and New York City.

Looking ahead, I haven’t set any concrete goals, but I have a few ideas…

I’d like to make it through the long winter with a mostly positive attitude.

There will be more traveling for work and pleasure.

More writing, more reading, more drawing, more time with my family and friends. Always.

Most of all, I hope 2016 takes it easy on us during this next trip around the sun. And in the unfortunate event it’s not so kind, let me get through it with grace.

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Should

Should.

It’s a four-letter word in disguise, and I’m trying to remove it from my mental vocabulary. Its brother, shouldn’t, is also a culprit.

“I should take a walk.”

“I should do the dishes.”

“I should [be doing something other than what I’m doing right now.]”

When that annoying little voice in my head tells me whatever I’m doing isn’t good enough, it’s usually prefaced with a should or a shouldn’t. My therapist gets credit for noticing this pattern, but yesterday I decided to combat the shoulds with some cognitive redirection.

I’m going to reframe the situation when I encounter one of these words, taking a minute to think about what I need and/or want in that moment, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to my laundry list of obligations.

“I’ll feel energized if I take a walk.”

“I don’t feel like doing the dishes. They can wait.”

“Am I content right now?”

What I find most surprising is how much I have to correct myself during the course of a single day. The number of times I beat myself over the head with shoulds and shouldn’ts is kind of sad and astonishing — just think of all the mental energy I could save by not doing that.

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