Going Dark for Art

I’m having trouble with this chapter in my NaNo WIP because it’s a mental/emotional breakdown scene and I’m just. not. there right now.

Having just resurfaced after a particularly difficult time, I don’t reeeeeally want to put myself back there just to write about it. And the stuff I wrote while I was there isn’t enough to make the chapter work. So what do I do?

I tried locking myself in my room, turning the sad music up to eleven and getting to a bad enough place to start the chapter but both children were crying downstairs, my husband was getting frustrated, and I couldn’t NOT go check on my lovebugs. I ended spending the next 20 minutes nursing, 30 minutes after that playing LEGO house, and then it was just about time for our bedtime routine.

Today, I’ve got to start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping, the projects at work that I’ve been putting off because of that whole maternity leave/postpartum pseudo depression stuff, and cleaning my house since we finally fired our officious cleaning lady.

How DOES one find the time to recreate a depressive episode?

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Nuts Need Energy to Ball

Chapter 20 of my NaNo WIP reads:

Chapter 20

Subtitle

[MC goes nutballs. To be written later]

I got up early. I’m just tasting my first few sips of coffee. I need to leave for a doctor’s appointment in less than an hour and I have to take the baby with me. Nutballs isn’t something I can write right now but it’s what needs to happen at this point in the story.

Nutballs is just not achievable at this level of momming.

Conversely, this level of momming is not achievable while nutballs. Which may be the point of the story.

Also, it may be a weeeeeee bit autobiographical.

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Hazelnutballs is about the best I can do.

Smother Love for Smad Boys

What is it about surly teens in crisis that makes my heart go pitter-pat, that makes me want to smother them with mommy love and make the bad things go away? Is that a universal thing for nurturing types or is it somehow built into our culture as another privilege for emotionally stunted males? Hard to say.

My heart went out to Harry Potter in Order of the Phoenix when he was “ANGRY… all the TIME,” and messed up Dumbledore’s office to let off some steam. Of the many times I cried during that series, that was one of the more intense bouts. And that was before I was an actual mom with way too much experience calming a tantruming child.

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Last night’s episode of Riverdale left me with that same feeling. That damn kid from the wrong side of the tracks all filled with rage and watching everyone screw him over is cry-bait for me fer sure. From Toni dismissing him as a love interest (*sad face* “why does no one love me?”) to Archie pulling the plug/e-brake to lose the race and his homies’ territory (*mad face* “why does my best friend keep effing everything up for me?”), I just couldn’t help but want to hug the hurt right out of that weird little nugget.

I settled instead for snuggling my own little weirdo who arrived home late after falling asleep in the car and couldn’t make sense of waking up after dark in his pjs and winter coat.

“Oh Jughead,” I said, patting his little noggin, “I love you even if no one else (but Betty) does.”

I… didn’t really do that. I convinced him to take off his coat and go to bed. It didn’t work and we were up until 11 playing Darth Vader and Batman can’t find their families. My kind has a penchant for pathos. I have a feeling that his teen years are going to be pretty rough on him. Might as well buy him a crown beanie and leather jacket now so we’re fully prepared.

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Give Me Riverdale or Let Me Go

My husband is mocking my excitement for tonight’s new episode of Riverdale and I’m over here like, listen… the most excitement I get is diaper blowouts and televised drama so BACK OFF. Like he’s not going to watch too. Like he’s not gonna enjoy every damn second.

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I’m of the opinion that real life drama is best experienced in intervals, preferably few and far between. I had a baby 7 weeks ago. I’m good. That was sufficiently dramatic, what with the race to the hospital and ushering new life into the world and whatnot. I don’t really need anything else happening in my life to upend it or create more emotion than I’m already experiencing as the pregnancy hormones wreak havoc on their way out of my system.

But I’m also bored out of my mind being home all day.

The solution: entertainment.

Televised, published, streaming; you name it and I will consume it. I will chew up other people’s drama and swallow it with satisfaction because it is tasty delicious and I didn’t have to cook it myself.

So let me have my excitement over Riverdale. Let me watch those beautiful kids fight and solve mysteries and make out and wear nice clothes in messy situations. Because I probably won’t leave the house for two more days and my kids don’t solve mysteries. Not even of the “OK, who pooped now?” variety. No, that’s all on me to figure out and it is not as mysterious as it may seem. Because the answer is inevitably Both Of Them.

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Get It Done… Tomorrow

Instead of writing today, I:

Played hashtag games on Twitter

Reposted something stupid on Facebook

Took two small children to Target and bought a $6 Halloween costume on 70% off clearance!

Played LEGOs

Joined Instagram

Binged on Trader Joe’s Garlic Parmesan Pita Chips

Cut a cucumber into toddler-sized pieces

Braided my hair Wonder Woman-style (sorta. I tried)

Watched Sweet Water Secrets on Youtube

Looked up the kid who plays Adam Goldberg on the Goldbergs on IMDB to see what else he’s up to

Entered a book giveaway on Goodreads and a Set Visit Sweepstakes for Riverdale

Watched The Good Place on my DVR

Listened to my husband tell me about his uneventful doctor’s appointment

Listened to my son list all the Halloween monsters he knows about

Sat in my parked car at the park with two sleeping children in the back seat, just chillin’ and taking in the Fall foliage

Checked out the NaNo merch

Made this list

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What to Do With a Full Vessel

Either my son’s pediatrician is just as awful as I think she is or this is a brand new thing baby doctors do but I just barely passed my postpartum quiz at my daughter’s check-up yesterday. Regardless, my son’s pediatrician is awful. I’m negotiating a switch to the new guy. But that’s besides the point.

The point is that I would not at all have passed the quiz after my son was born. I think I’m surviving a little better this time around because my daughter’s birth was very well medicated and not in the least bit difficult. My son’s birth? I think they call it Acute Stress Disorder. It can happen when a child rocket ships out of your undercarriage before you’re full aware you’re in labor. Apparently.

I’m also less afraid of breaking my daughter since I know now how resilient babies are. I’m less afraid of taking her out in public or putting her in a car seat or, you know, her not getting enough food or not breathing unless I’m watching her. It really is easier the second time around.

And yet…

My mental health is still touch and go. I told my daughter’s pedi that it was probably just a fun mix of not enough sleep and desperately needing to go back to work–entirely true, by the way–but there’s definitely more to it than that. I’m just not willing to launch into it with my kid’s doc while he’s shining a flash light in her eyeballs with my husband barely containing my son’s hissy fit right behind us. Not exactly a good time to talk about me.

But when is it? This is what I’m discovering about being a mom of two: there isn’t really any time for me. Sometimes it feels very much like there is no more me. To quote my own book, because I’m conceited like that,

“Does it matter what I want or am I just a vessel for the wants of others?”

Toddlers have limited compassion. Not none but very… very limited. I was told last night that I couldn’t be sad because he was sad because only one person can be sad at a time? And if it’s a toddler, everyone else can suck it. At least until the next episode of Vampirina starts.

I have my own postpartum checkup in a few weeks and that, perhaps, will be Me Time. I will chat with my own doc and see if I pass her quiz. Could be I go back to work before then and find meaning in my life. Could be that I get caught up in whatever WIP I’ve got for NaNoWriMo and don’t have time for non-essential thoughts. Could be I hide under a chair until someone lures me out with coffee and a muffin. Who can tell?

Until then, let me give myself some insight, again from my own book:

“Maybe we are all a vessel for the wants of others, regardless of whether we provide for those wants. Conflict arises when we deny the wants of others. Conflict WITH others anyway. Conflict with ourselves arises when all we do is provide for the wants of others. There needs to be a balance.”

Yeah, the me who wrote that only had the one child. Stupid past me. You’ll learn.

 

Hot and Hopeless Strangers

Reading fan fiction is dangerous. It gets me in a certain mindset that’s not great for my own writing. As much as I love it, it tends to be lazy: it relies on its audience’s existing understanding of characters and settings and therefore puts little effort into descriptions; it tends to be repetitive, exploring the same themes as the source material and/or of other fics; it tends to be focused on minutiae (which is part of its appeal, really) instead of narrative purpose; and it’s rarely well edited or… really, proofread at all. There are exceptions, of course, but when you’ve been ravenously consuming, you encounter a lot of crap.

But in newborn hell, I NEED TO CONSUME TO STAY ALIVE because what the hell else is there for me to do? I can’t go to work, I can’t go to places with lots of people, I can’t spend ALL day doing household chores nor playing freaking Paw Patrol with my toddler. There are only so many shows on OnDemand and fewer on TV. And my desk chair isn’t comfortable enough for endless Netflix binges.

Reading fanfic on my phone while I nurse my newborn on the couch? OK! It’s free, it’s never ending, it’s portable, and it lets me stay in a world that interests me. I win.

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Except… when I try to write my own thoughts and start seeing some of the bad fanfic habits popping up on the page. With NaNoWriMo now just about a week away, I need to get out of the habit.

In a lame attempt to change this habit, I proposed (to myself) that I would only read fanfic at night and try to read real books by day.

So yesterday, I read The Stranger.

Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”

Then last night, I started a new fanfic. Then this morning, I … kept reading the same fanfic. Because, let’s be honest, I’d rather spend my mind time in a land of poor grammar while beautiful people I sometimes see on my TV make out with each other than in a land of hot hopeless existentialism.

Clearly, I chose the wrong real book.

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Not the feel good book of the year I probably could have used yesterday.

Give Me Something to Watch

Trapped in a haze of newborn house arrest, I often forget what day it is. Or what month or what the outside world looks like. But I convinced the husband to take the whole fam out for a drive-through adventure to Starbucks this afternoon while I marveled at the changing leaves and new For Sale signs on houses in my neighborhood.

My only real connection to the outside world right now is Twitter, to tell you the truth, and the odd occasion when someone comes to visit. Otherwise, my days are occupied with diaper changing, Disney Jr, and Netflix… which is how I came across Wynonna Earp and yaaaaaaaa’ll, I am HOOKED.

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So hooked am I that I am in a rage about not being able to find season 2, episodes 1 through 7 anywhere I don’t have to pay extra for it. OnDemand starts at ep 8 as does the Syfy channel. Amazon purports to have the missing eps but for extra $ which, as a super part-time work-from-homer on unpaid maternity leave, I do not have.

My only option is to read the recaps on Syfy’s page. Which…. I might do. Because Riverdale is only once a week and I haven’t found a good replacement show for Wynonna.

And that’s how we get to what I actually wanted to write about: replacement shows for your main squeeze when you need a little action on the side. But I think I wandered too far away from posting with a point–12 and counting interruptions from the wee one to change/feed/burp her will mess with one’s intentions that way–so instead, I’ll put this out into the void and hope for a satisfying response:

I need a replacement show for Wynonna Earp until or unless I can get the first half of season 2 for free. What have you got for me, internet?

 

The Cutest Little Psychoses

I’ve been doing some reading this morning on postpartum depression vs. “Baby Blues” and it seems to me that no one does a good enough job of finding the middle ground.

Do I want to throw my children out the window?

Not literally, no.

Do I blame myself for things going wrong?

No, I blame the child who puked on me or the husband who didn’t respond to the question I asked 6 times. I blame the toddler who jumped on my freaking head while I was sleeping or the visitor who didn’t understand that an invitation from my mother-in-law to visit MY house doesn’t necessarily lead to a warm welcome.

Am I so unhappy that I have difficulty sleeping?

Not as much as the screaming hungry angry gassy baby makes it difficult to sleep.

Am I having difficulty keeping up with chores and responsibilities? Am I overwhelmed by the pileup?

Yes! I have TWO needy children. I can’t open the freaking dishwasher without SOMEONE screaming at me.

Am I able to look forward to enjoying things?

I mean, sort of. I was super psyched to watch the premiere of Riverdale last night but the baby cried every time I put her down, the toddler and the husband came home 20 minutes in and neither would shut the hell up for 5 seconds, then the toddler threw an epic fit when I asked him NOT to put stickers on my face and it took half an hour to calm him down. So… CAN I look forward to things? Yes. Do I GET TO enjoy them? NO! NO, clearly not!

Am I able to laugh and find the funny side of things?

Sure. Maniacally. I can laugh maniacally at how awful things seem to be right now.

Have I thought about harming myself?

Bitch, I’m fabulous. Hurt belongs on other people, not on me. Unwanted visitors, for example.

 

So, what? I’m fine? I just have a touch of the baby blues because I’m not suicidal? Because I’ll tell you what: I’m not ok. I’m irritable and short-tempered and impatient. I’m totally overwhelmed and weepy. I find myself getting WAY too invested in fictional entertainment as an escape and forget to do things like… brush my teeth or make lunch because I’d rather being reading this 101,000 word fanfic than living my own life.

But I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m not experiencing any anxiety, so there’s nothing really wrong. I’m so glad they make you wait 6 weeks for an insurance-covered postpartum checkup instead of freaking checking on you a couple of times in the first few weeks to make sure you haven’t burned your house down in a fit of cabin fever.

Honestly, I don’t think I have PPD. I have enough experience with non-baby related depression that I think I’d be able to recognize it if I did. But I’ll tell you what: there is nothing normal or mild about these “baby blues” and it’s about time those damn medical professionals who like to dismiss women’s suffering–baby-related or not–got their heads out of their asses and started helping.

Just because I’m not tearing out my own hair doesn’t mean everything’s fine. Maybe I just have really good self-control. Maybe I really respect my healthy follicles. I don’t know, maybe it’s Maybelline.

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I Too Am Non Blond

I’ve got two warring circumstances happening in my life right now that are combining to form an awesome fighting force of malcontentment bordering on mild depression: I can’t freaking sleep (because babies) and I can’t freaking write (because lack of sleep and babies).

To combat that, I take teeny tiny curled up on the couch cat naps until my toddler jumps on my face or my newborn screams bloody murder and I do some musical free writing. When I get 2 minutes, I put on a song and let whatever pent up emotional nonsense I’ve got out onto paper. I wrote a couple of nice pieces to Neil Young this week, actually.

So when I came across the Buzzfeed article 7 Songs That Helped Me With My Anxiety, I thought I scored a handy soundtrack to some creative writing therapy.

Not so. Not yet. Because I got stuck on the very first song, What’s Going On by 4 Non Blonds.

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Instead of my own words pouring out, all I got was theirs. But I’ll tell you what: I am not complaining.

I loosened up that mom ponytail, blasted the volume and sang “at the top of my lungs”, sleeping babies be damned (only one was sleeping. The other is watching Halloween videos on my phone and couldn’t be more invested in Spookley the Square Pumpkin right now).

It worked though. Color me stress free… for the next few minutes at least. My GOD but that song is restorative. They should sell the single as a self-help system.

Of course NOW the baby is crying and the phone battery is running low and I’ve got to put my hair back up into a convenient mom bun to prevent child strangulation, but for those 5 minutes back there, I was starting to feel pretty good.

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