Posts Tagged ‘social anxiety’

It is rainy, I am grumpy. I don’t feel like making a list of things to make for dinner. My brain, these past few days, has been like one of those dog walkers you sometimes see in big cities, you know – the ones that can walk like six or ten dogs at once? Except my brain is not doing well with the dog walking, and all the thought-dogs are, like, chasing after squirrels, or biting each other, or wagging their tails hopefully at people trying to pass, or lying down because they Just Can’t anymore, or winding their leashes around their own legs until they are all tangled up, or sniffing at trees, or peeing on things. What I’m trying to say is, there’s a lot of chaos and distraction, thought-wise. And, yes, the thought equivalent of excrement. 

So let’s try to untangle some leashes and return some of these overwrought metaphors to their owners, shall we?

  • Overwhelmed: Your advice blew me away the other day. I read each comment on my post intently and took notes and felt, with every comment, so incredibly grateful for you for taking the time to address my silly non-problems. Oh, how I would love to have a girls’ weekend with YOU. We could extend it by a few or ten days so we could fit in ALL the amazing things you suggested. I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness and thoroughness and wonderful ideas that I wasn’t even sure how to respond. THANK YOU. I am so lucky. 
  • Girls’ Trip Update Already: Using as much of your advice as possible, I put together a list of five suggestions for the girls’ trip and sent them to one of the stakeholders of the girls’ trip. She vetoed them all. So. I am kind of thinking maybe it is now her girls’ trip to plan????
  • Disappearing Emails: I keep writing and sending emails… and they disappear. This happened a couple of times specifically to emails I wrote to my father in the middle of the night. (When you wake up at 3:30 am, you write emails to your parents too, right?) But because of the timing, I sort of dismissed the disappearances – maybe I dreamed the emails??? But I sent an email yesterday that I was very much awake for, and it just… disappeared. Not in a draft anywhere. Not in an outbox. Not in a sent folder. Very odd. It’s not like it was even an objectionable email – like, I could see (see, but not approve of) my email becoming sentient and deciding, no, you don’t want to say that. I’m going to quietly step in and stop you from sending something inadvisable. But this was a NOTHING email. A fact email. There wasn’t even any issue with TONE. 
  • Listen, Hug, Advise: I saw this advice floating around Instagram as a parenting technique. Instead of jumping in to help your kid, you ask, “Do you want me to listen? Do you need a hug? Or do you need help?” Great advice, and something I have tried to incorporate into my interactions with Carla. But it wasn’t until a friend applied it to me that I realized this has applications for adults as well. I told her that sometimes I worry that I treat her like a therapist, and it makes me feel guilty – and she said that maybe I felt that way because she sometimes leans toward giving advice. She said that she understands that sometimes a friend just needs to vent, and said she described the “listen, hug, advise” technique to me and said she would appreciate and welcome it if I said I needed one or the other specifically. (She is a very lovely person.) I found this to be such a useful reframing. This is not just a technique for children! Even though I want simply to vent or be comforted 90% of the time, I still tend to jump in with advice when other people share their own problems with me. So I am going to try to do more asking of what people need, rather than assuming they need my non-existent expertise.
  • Skin Drama: I have complained bitterly about my skin here before. Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with a type of rosacea that causes pustules and red, swollen bumps. I have been treating this with prescription cream. Last week, my face positively ERUPTED and I am miserable. MISERABLE. The blemishes are painful and/or itchy, but also they make me incredibly self-conscious. I mean, I have a fairly prominent facial scar that I carry around with me every day, so I’m somewhat used to stares anyway, but this is SO MUCH WORSE. I look like I have the pox. I was very lucky to have very few skin issues when I was a teen, and this makes me feel so full of empathy and outrage for teenagers. At least I, an adult, can use coping thoughts like, “everyone deals with this” and “most people don’t notice, or if they do notice it is in the same passing way they notice your hair color or whether you have jam on your shirt” and “this is temporary”! At least I can be relatively certain that my peers won’t tease me or call out my appearance or give me awful nicknames! How is this an affliction that young people deal with on the regular?! I am having to FORCE myself to go out in public. I had An Event to attend a few days ago, and I did not want to go. But obviously did, because I had made a commitment and because I want to be a good role model for Carla. (It was fine. I wore cute clothes, did my hair, wore glasses to hopefully distract from the state of my face, and put some coverup on the worst blemishes even though I was afraid that it would make them worse.) I have also put in a call to my dermatologist to say WHAT IS HAPPENING and I am hopeful he will have some suggestions. This is mainly a “just venting” post, because everyone’s skin is different and because at this point I will probably only do what my dermatologist suggests, but of course if you also have papulopustular rosacea I would love to hear what has worked for you, and I would love to hear any thoughts about Going In Public When You Don’t Want To.
  • Aging Disparity: Clearly, this skin thing is a result of my advancing age; it is apparently a Known Thing that can develop during perimenopause. It’s just the latest example of my forties not going great, health wise. I mean, I am very blessed with overall good health. I do recognize that. But the plantar fasciitis and the skin thing and a couple of other small things I have yet to check out so therefore don’t know if they are just Regular Things For People Of This Age Group or Things We Should Treat make me kind of disgusted with this decade already. Then there’s my husband, who is six months my senior. He is having NONE of these issues! He is getting better and more appealing by the day. His patients compliment his hair. He has been trying to lose a little weight, and it seems to just fall off. He has been biking a lot and his calves are, well, they are beautiful. He has always had nice legs, but I didn’t even know I found calves attractive until he toned and chiseled them with all this biking. Ahem. Apologies for the tawdry turn. He does have a few more white beard hairs, but of course they just make him look distinguished or maybe a little less like he just graduated from medical school. His feet never hurt. He never has trouble sleeping. His face is handsome and clear. Even the gradual deepening of those little parallel lines between his eyebrows makes him look thoughtful and concerned rather than wrinkled. I am glad he is healthy and thriving (and attractive), don’t get me wrong. But IT IS DEEPLY UNFAIR.
  • Pity Party, Over. 
  • Dinners This Week: I suppose I really should think about what to make for dinner. Even if I really, really don’t want to. This sheet-pan miso honey chicken with asparagus sounds pretty good. I can work up some enthusiasm for this lemony cucumber couscous salad – maybe with some grilled shrimp? How about some chipotle pork chops with some sort of vegetable – broccoli, maybe?
  • Romance Novel: Recently, on the recommendation of Nicole, I read this book… which I LOVED… and immediately decided I want to write a romance novel. Even though I am not even a regular reader of romance novels, which seems like it would be a huge disadvantage when it comes to writing one. Even though I am 83K words into my thriller that I vowed to FINISH instead of getting distracted with a new project. So I have this whole idea for the romance novel sketched out – but the love interest hasn’t quite taken shape for me yet. There is definitely a very hot and intimidatingly smart veterinarian in town that he used to date, but why did they break up? Why is he still single? What is his Big Flaw? What is holding him back from being with our heroine? Also, I kind of need him to be independently wealthy; I’m not sure HOW it came to be that he doesn’t have to work, but it would be nice if it had something to do with why he resists falling in love with the protagonist. She is a widow, but ready to move on; maybe he also lost someone and is NOT ready to move on? But then… how does the main character bring him around? Hmmm. This is the fun part of writing. The thinking part. The part where the story unfolds nearly flawlessly in your head. The part where you have to WRITE IT DOWN is less fun, unfortunately.

Okay, I tried very hard to come up with a tenth bullet, but I don’t have it in me. We’ll all have to deal with only nine. Fortunately, nine is one of Carla’s favorite numbers, so I think she’d say that this was an ideal situation rather than a failure of imagination. 

What’s new with you today, this first day of May?

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I am feeling stricken with social anxiety, Internet. STRICKEN.

Here’s the thing: At the beginning of the school year, a group of parents from Carla’s school decided to get together semi-regularly. Varying numbers of these parents have met several times already and I have been unable to attend a single event. I have been sad, but also relieved because OMG dealing with people. But I have also been getting more and more anxious because I realize that the more this group meets, the more cohesive it becomes, and the harder it will be to join. I already feel like I am on the fringe of any group, and my inability to attend any of the events so far has already pushed me further to the edges of this group. Does that make sense?

Now, finally, the group is getting together on a night when my husband can watch Carla! So I took a deep breath and responded that I could go. And now: stricken. 

I am Not Good in groups. I mean, I am barely okay in one-on-one situations, but in groups I just flail. I have never mastered a non-awkward way to squeeze into an already-going conversation. I feel like my small talk game is poor. I am not adept at discussing current events. I am not an interesting storyteller. Not that I even have anything interesting to say. I become overly aware of how I talk and my tongue fumbles all over itself. If more than one person looks at me expectantly, my face will burst into flames. You know how it is. (Maybe you do not, in which case can we exchange personalities for a night please?) 

HOW do I do this? My 100% serious plan is to make a (mental) list of topics I can turn to in a pinch, but… what are those topics? I feel like I am pretty good at asking people about themselves, and since I don’t know a lot of these moms very well I can ask them who their kids are and what activities they’re doing and how their holidays were and whether they have anything exciting planned for our upcoming four-day weekend seriously we JUST had two weeks off and what their kids think of their teachers and what books they’ve read and whether they saw any good movies over the break… but I don’t necessarily know how to move from “bombarding a person with questions” to “real conversation.” I have a hard enough time carrying on a conversation with my hairdresser, and she’s just one person, and I am fairly comfortable with her. I have a hard time responding to the emails without feeling like I am dumb and everyone thinks I’m dumb. Going out to dinner with multiple people is like… more than that. Ugh ugh ugh. 

And if it’s a sit-down restaurant, where do I sit? And what do I wear? And and and…? 

There are a couple of parents I do know fairly well who are in the group, and I could probably try to hang near them. But I don’t want to be a GLOMMER-ONNER, you know? Plus, it would be nice to get to know new people. 

I don’t even know what I am asking you. I am just nervous. And determined to go anyway, because it is good to be social and it is good to meet new people and presumably most of us will know each other and each other’s kids for the next eight years at least and it is good to push outside one’s comfort zone now and again… but I’m also really nervous.   

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I have always dreamed extremely vivid – and usually super violent – dreams. But it’s been a long while since I’ve remembered any. 

This past week, I’ve had two that stuck with me after the fact. 

In one, I dreamed I was in an enclosure hiding from bears. The bears WERE going to attack, and if anyone wasn’t in the enclosure, they WOULD be mauled. There were other people who kept coming into my enclosure, but no one seemed to grasp the fact that BEARS CAN OPEN DOORS, and so they were leaving all the doors unlocked, so I had to keep going around and around to all the doors, locking them and shooting meaningful, grim looks to my fellow enclosees, none of whom seemed capable of grasping the fact that MAULING WAS IMMINENT. There were a LOT of doors, and the enclosure kept expanding. At one point, I went outside into a fenced-in area. The fences had barbed wire on top of them, but they were all only about two feet tall so that a really determined bear could simply step over them. 

I think we can all deduce what particular anxiety THAT dream is about.

The other dream is less memorable, and less perilous. But no less upsetting, for me. In the dream, I dropped Carla off at someone’s house for a playdate, and the mother invited me in to join everyone for a snack. The snack was bananas (which I do not eat), but Carla hissed at me, “You have to be polite.” So I ate a piece of a banana. And the host cut off another slice of banana, so I ate that too. And another. And another. Even though I haven’t eaten a banana since… preschool? I can still feel that mushy, sickly sweetness in my mouth. 

This dream, too, has a direct source. Our lovely neighbor has invited me and Carla over for lunch. The date is still pending, but oh my goodness I wish I could get out of it! 

Eating at other people’s homes has always been a HUGE source of anxiety for me. While I do eat a large variety of foods, I have a lot of super picky aversions. It’s not as easy as saying, “Oh, I have an allergy to X” and then the host just doesn’t cook with X. The list is so long I could not even hope to cover it all.

I remember, as a kid, DREADING going over to other people’s houses to eat. Just absolutely finding it awful. I have a vivid memory of sitting at a friend’s dining table with her whole family as they ate what was, I’m sure, a perfectly lovely meal, and I was just choked with anxiety because I did not want to eat any of it. And I tried to eat things here and there – the bread, maybe – and my friend’s mother was scolding me to clean my plate. It was awful. I don’t think I ever ate at that friend’s house again. In fact, unless someone was clearly and definitely serving pizza or tacos, I don’t think I ever ate at ANYONE’s house again.

I will never do the ”clean your plate” thing to Carla and I will never force one of her friends in my care to eat something she doesn’t want to. But that’s children. I am a grown adult. I should be able to go to someone’s house and eat the food. And yet. It is very anxiety producing, because I am equally afraid that a) I will have to eat something I dislike or b) I will offend the host by rejecting something I do not want to eat. 

I would say that my husband and I only rarely eat at other people’s houses. We have two sets of friends with whom we dine occasionally, and I feel like they are close enough friends that I can say, “No, I don’t eat lamb” when they ask, in advance of the dinner, if we eat lamb chops. (I say it regretfully, and embarrassedly, but with great relief.) But with the vast majority of people, you just show up! And eat the food they serve! I remember going to a new friend’s house and they served an absolutely beautiful meal of which the main course was chicken parmesan. Each breast was just smothered in tomatoes, which is probably my Number One Most Reviled Food. I cannot eat tomatoes; I have tried. I think I tried to be surreptitious in how I scraped them off the chicken, and then I helped wash the dishes, and I am SO hopeful that the host didn’t notice. (I am guessing the host noticed; I would notice. I would then, as host, fret that the food was bad or that I’d made something unpalatable to one of the guests.) Another time, we went to a friend’s house and she served chili with chunks of tomatoes in it. I ate around the tomatoes, but it’s so hard to do that in an unnoticeable way, and yet I cannot eat the tomatoes. I WISH I COULD. If I had access to a genie, and could only make selfish and self-serving wishes, I am pretty sure “make it so I love tomatoes” would be one of them.  

All this talk about tomatoes is making me queasy.

Along the same lines: Carla eats nothing. She is FAR more picky than I am and has not developed the techniques I have honed over the years for eating things she doesn’t like but can stand, or taking (as my mother-in-law calls it) a no-thank-you portion of something she doesn’t want, or trying something that doesn’t look appealing, or swiftly moving an item to her husband’s plate for him to eat instead.  

So now, this lovely, wonderful woman has extended this lovely invitation… to two people who eat NOTHING… and I not only have to somehow overcome my own anxieties about eating but also model good guest behavior to my child. Ugh ugh ugh. (What if she serves egg salad, a food I do not think I could force myself to eat??? Or some kind of lunch meat??? Or almost any normal lunch food????????)

Is there any way, after I have already said, “Oh that sounds lovely” to the neighbor, to now go back and say something like, “Carla and I have a bunch of really fussy food aversions – would it be possible to come have a glass of lemonade instead?” Is there any way?????? There isn’t, is there. I can almost picture her face falling as we reject her LOVELY invitation. Which is almost – but not quite – as bad as facing the Unknown Food. 

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Carla’s birthday is a little more than a month away and I have NOTHING planned. Usually by this point, I have fretted all over this little blog about theme and where to find theme-appropriate napkins and how difficult it was to pin down a venue and which cake I’m going to make. But this year, I have… nothing. 

(Not even a cake request, which is very un-Carla! And perhaps… perhaps this is the year I outsource the cake baking????)

Part of the problem – maybe the MAIN part – is that Carla doesn’t have any sort of specific desire for a party this year. I mean, she wants A Party. But she hasn’t said “I want a tea party” or “let’s all play LEGOs” or “I want to paint pottery!” or whatever. I am not a creative person, when it comes to birthdays. All my creativity crumples into dust beneath the anxiety of planning an event and executing that event and then attending said event with multiple other humans, all of whom I am expected to interact with. 

The only things at all that Carla has expressed interest in are a) a sleepover and b) a party at our house, featuring a treasure hunt. 

Treasure Hunt: When Carla’s cousin was here recently, I made a treasure hunt for them. I’ve done one another time, when I hosted three other families and did a treasure hunt for the kids. I LIKE making treasure hunts. But the older the kids get, the more challenging it is to create clues that won’t stump them, but will take more than five seconds to solve. 

Plus, while I am fine chasing my one niece and my one child around our very safe cul-de-sac while they look for clues, I don’t know a) how I would feel about chasing multiple nine-year-olds around the neighborhood or b) how other parents might feel about their kids being let loose into the wild.

It is almost more challenging to come up with prizes for this age group. Although I suppose if Carla lands on a theme, I could find something that works. 

The biggest challenge of all with treasure hunts is making them long enough. You can make 20 clues and have the kids run up and down the stairs and around the cul-de-sac and it still ends up taking them under 15 minutes to finish. Which is quite deflating when it takes MUCH LONGER THAN THAT to create the clues and hide them.

Party at Our House: The main issue, though, is that I don’t want to have a party at my house. I find the idea of a bunch of kids invading my space SO stressful, even though it shouldn’t be. 

All my birthday parties when I was growing up took place at my house. And they were wonderful! I remember, when I was really little, playing games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or drop a pin in a bucket while blindfolded. My mother made treasure hunts, which is probably where I learned to love them. 

My mom was fantastic about birthday parties, my whole life. She always did something fun and delightful. My favorite childhood birthday was the one where she bought a little Troll doll for each guest and we all sat around my kitchen table and decorated them. I seem to remember that it was a contest, but… I’m sure she found some way to make it so that everyone won. 

(Is there a Troll-doll equivalent that today’s nine-year-olds would like?)

There’s also a bit of Keeping Up with the Joneses going on, I can admit. Carla’s classmates often have very impressive parties – think bouncy houses and country clubs and backyard pools. Most of Carla’s friends live in enormous homes with beautiful properties. When we’ve been invited over for parties, there are gorgeous decorations and catered food. Our backyard is (currently) a marsh, and gets so incredibly hot in the summer that it’s not really comfortable for guests. Our outdoor furniture is old and mismatched and we don’t have the ziplines or stone patios or pools that many people have. Our house itself is smallish and somewhat in disrepair – both facts that seem glaringly obvious when we have other people over. Plus, after hosting Carla’s first two or three birthday parties here, I find decorating SO stressful it’s just not even worth it. I want the Instagram/Pinterest-worthy party, but I am not great at executing that level of creativity/cuteness. I suppose I could pay someone else to do it, but that sounds pricey.

If I could be certain that all the parents would just roll up to our driveway and toss their kids out the door and leave… I might feel a little bit better. Kids in general aren’t super judgmental – I don’t remember noticing the décor or size or quality of furniture at any of my friends’ houses – and I think as long as they got to roam around and eat cake, they would be okay. Maybe this is the age where parents would feel okay dropping them off? Maybe this is the perfect time for me to get away with a banner and a couple of balloons and maybe a colorful tablecloth and not do anything else???

I don’t know. Even if it were just kids, I think I would find it very anxious-making. I much prefer going to a specific place that has employees who entertain the kids or supervise an activity and then going home to my quiet, clean, one-kid-only home.

To recap: it feels like having a party HERE would require a) outsourcing and spending a lot of money or b) doing things myself and becoming very stressed AND probably spending a lot of money. I want to avoid it… but I don’t have any alternate ideas. It feels like we’ve exhausted the typical birthday party venues… and I’ve tried looking for others with no success. 

The new Jurassic World movie is coming out around her birthday, and Carla is desperate to see it. Our local movie theaters were allowing people to rent them out for birthdays… but I haven’t looked into whether they are still doing that. Plus, I don’t know how many of Carla’s friends’ parents would allow them to see a Jurassic World movie (nor how many of her friends would actually want to see it). That may be something the three of us do as a family. 

Sleepover: Probably the best compromise would be hosting a sleepover. The reason this feels like a compromise is that I would limit Carla to one or two friends, so it would be less stressful. Presumably. But… then she would have to choose just one or two friends, and she’s a kid who has a LOT of friends, so I don’t know how she would choose. In this time of Covid, would anyone even be comfortable with that (not that they aren’t sharing the same air every day at school)? And my beloved child is a person whose energy level escalates in direct proportion to how tired she is, so I am imagining that NO ONE would sleep at all. Not that you are expected to sleep much at a sleepover, but… no sleep sounds pretty dreadful for all involved, including the poor parents who would be collecting their exhausted children the next day. 

Plus… what do you DO for a nine-year-old sleepover? The only sleepovers I remember (and, bless my parents, sometimes I had MANY friends sleep over) involved activities like calling boys on my phone or watching scary movies or playing with my Ouija board… all of which seem a little mature for this age group. 

A few of my friends-who-are-parents don’t do a party at all for their kids. For some, this is just the way it is. For others, maybe some years it works out and some years it doesn’t. I wish we could go this route! But I know Carla LOVES a party, so I’m not sure she would roll with it. 

As usual, the VAST BULK of this stress is mine. I know Carla wouldn’t really care about any of the things that bother me. I know her friends wouldn’t really care, I know even the most judgmental of parents would only turn up their noses for a few seconds before forgetting about me entirely. And yet I cannot talk myself out of feeling the stress. 

So here I am, doing nothing but fretting, as the weeks tick by.

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I don’t know how to categorize the subject of this post. Maybe it is Things People Say Without Thinking? Or Things You Should and Shouldn’t Say? We Live in a Society? Interactions with People You Know But Not Well Enough to Know the Right Thing to Say?

Also, keep in mind that it’s possible the two halves of this topic are not as connected in real life as they are in my brain. 

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a couple of women about a volunteer project. Up until yesterday, we’d only spoken via email or phone or text, never in person. But we got together for coffee to hammer out the details of something that was cumbersome over the phone. 

One of the women arrived a little bit late, and when she came in, the other woman and I introduced ourselves. The late woman said, cheerily, and with no rancor, “Oh! It’s so funny! I thought YOU would be taller [this to our companion] and YOU would be shorter [this to me]!”

It was an innocuous enough comment, although it struck me as relatable (I tend to think everyone is my age/height until I meet them in person – seriously, everyone reading this right now is 41 and 5’6” unless you have expressly stated otherwise) but also a slightly odd thing to say out loud. 

(It also made me wonder, in what way am I giving off a short vibe, and what would a “short vibe” consist of, anyway?)

It reminded me of a very similar experience I had nearly twenty years ago. I was working remotely and had never met any of the people I interacted with daily. And there was no Zoom back then, and I don’t even know if iPhones had been invented (I am ancient), so I had no idea what anyone looked like and they had no idea what I looked like either. 

When I flew out to the home office, I got to meet everyone in person. And one of the women I worked with said to me, “Wow, you look so different from how I pictured you. I thought you would be fat and ugly.”

I mean. WHAT. Who says that, a), and secondforth why, WHY would you say that to anyone? 

Fat, fine – maybe I talked a lot about food (unsurprising) or maybe I had a jolly persona, I don’t know, whatever. People come in all different sizes, and I know fat people and skinny people and medium people and their sizes don’t have any particular value for me. But juxtaposing it with “ugly” makes it clear that, to this person, “fat” was a negative rather than a neutral attribute. 

And, okay, giving off a “short vibe” or a “blond vibe” or a “nerdy vibe” or a “freckly vibe” is puzzling… but giving off a “fat, ugly” vibe just seems clearly negative, right? What the hell does that MEAN, and why do I need to KNOW THAT?

Anyway, I was 25 or whatever and I laughed about it and moved on – the colleague was someone with whom I worked very well for many years, and she either didn’t know how rude her comment was or meant it to cause pain but didn’t get any reaction. But I have remembered it, and puzzled over it once in awhile. 

I think, a lot of times, we feel like we SHOULD say something, but aren’t quite sure WHAT to say, and so we end up putting our foot in it. 

Personally, I think the old tried and true, “It’s so nice to finally meet you!” is plenty, but I can fully understand how someone might want to be more specific/original. Plus, if I met you in person and you were 21 and 6’3”, I just might be surprised enough that I would blurt out something bizarre. 

This brings me to the topic that * I * feel is related, but may not actually be related. Maybe third cousins twice removed.

It is also about Things You Should Say When Saying Something Is Required. More specifically, what do you say to someone when societal rules require you to comment on a situation but don’t know how the recipient feels about the situation?

Here are some examples: 

Example 1: A coworker’s parent has died, and you know about the death, and know the coworker well enough that it would be rude/noticeable NOT to say something, but you don’t know the coworker well enough to know what their relationship was like with the parent. So many people have such fraught relationships with their parents, and death can bring up complicated feelings already, whether the relationship was happy or strained.

“I’m so sorry for your loss” is the standard statement when someone has died, and maybe it’s fine in this instance, even if this particular parent’s death may not feel like a loss to this particular child. “May your parent’s memory be a blessing” is more geared toward the mourner, and therefore might not be appropriate if the relationship between child and parent wasn’t a happy one. “May your parent rest in peace” might be a good neutral statement that doesn’t convey the expectation that all parent/child relationships are full of love and respect. Maybe “I’m so sorry.” is all you need in this instance. It’s short, it’s simple. It covers a wide range of possibilities. 

Example 2: A parent you see regularly but aren’t close to is pregnant. You happen to know this parent is pregnant. You also happen to know, from a mutual acquaintance, that the pregnancy was unplanned and that there are issues in the marriage (infidelity, serious illness, abuse) or in the pregnant person’s life (job insecurity, desire to be done having children, illness) or with the pregnancy itself (known complication or disease) that mean the pregnancy might not be happy or desirable. But if you don’t know the parent well enough to KNOW these things yourself, how do you acknowledge the news?

“Congratulations!” is simple, but implies happiness. “You look wonderful” might be okay. I… can’t think of any neutral statements about pregnancy that don’t imply either “babies are wonderful and you should be happy about this one!” or “OMG I heard that you don’t want this kid, what a crap situation.” 

Example 3: Someone you know, but not well, is getting a divorce. You have no idea if this is a happy relief for the couple or a devastating sadness. 

If this was truly someone I didn’t know, I might just not say anything at all. And yet… it’s a major life change, and it might feel weird to say nothing. But I would want to say the right thing! 

I’m guessing that people in ALL of these situations and more get ALL SORTS of comments, and that they just learn to grit their teeth and get through the ones that are totally off base. But I can imagine that each new comment could cause additional pain for a person going through an already painful experience. It would be nice to be able to just be neutral, at least at first. And then, once the person says, “Oh! I’m actually quite glad my stepmother died – she was locking me in the attic every day and making me scrub the castle floor and refused to pay for an exterminator!” you can say, “Well, good riddance!” or “May she meet the appropriate judgment in the hereafter” or whatever. 

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continue to feel like a planet whirling so fast it is about to spin off its axis. The frigid vacuum of space sounds pretty pleasant right about now. I wouldn’t be able to breathe, but it would be so quiet

I had a meeting this morning about the school project I am working on. My project partner and I are so lucky a) to have each other (well. I am lucky to have her. Remains to be seen whether I will be useful for anything but flailing.) and b) that the previous head of this project has made herself available to us for questions and coaching. But today’s meeting was… well, let’s say it is A LARGE PART of why I am spinning so fast. It seemed like we would ask a question about how best to execute Task A. And we’d talk through it and get to the end, and then an unrelated topic would insinuate itself into the conversation briefly, and then, BAM, by the way, Unrelated Topic is actually crucial and you need to do it BEFORE you can execute Task A. Like, you’re digging away at this nice deep hole, and then when you get to the bottom, someone yells, “WAIT! You were supposed to dig to the left of this hole first!” So you go back and dig the new hole, but the dirt you displace from the new hole crumbles and fills up the hole you already dug, which you are now going to have to dig again, but in a slightly different way.


Speaking of meetings! I met with my potential client yesterday. And by “client” I mean one organization, but multiple people. As I mentioned in my previous fret about this encounter, I had no idea what to wear. Not only have I had very very few business encounters since I left full-time work SIX YEARS AGO OMG, but I have also put on quite a lot of weight since then, rendering any very old, out-of-style business wear wholly unwearable. I have this beautiful cream silk blouse that I have kept all these years, so I tried it on, but my boobs kept trying to make a break for it. I figured that boob wrangling would add a layer of stress I didn’t need to my meeting, so I scrapped that idea.

I was to meet the client(s) for coffee, and my Fashionable Friend told me that I could wear jeans and a blouse or a nice sweater for that type of meeting. (Do you have a Fashionable Friend? She is very nice to have around. For lots of regular-friendshippy reasons, but also because she always knows the right answer to style questions.) So I found a nice top and a blazer and wore those with dark jeans and heels. It was the right call: the clients were wearing a range from jeans/leggings to dresses, so I felt nicely in the middle. And I was comfortable, and my boobs behaved themselves. 

The meeting itself was very nice. The organization is one I am familiar with and I love its mission and product. And the people were friendly and smart and totally the type of people I would want to be friends with. It was a little intimidating, being in a room with multiple people, unmasked. But the strangeness of that faded quickly. The single drink option during the meeting was coffee. Which, as you may recall, I do not drink. I am SURE I could have asked for some water, but by the time I had the opportunity, it would have been A Big Pain, so I just went with the coffee option. I AM BREEZY. By the way, not only was it coffee, it was black coffee, which I have never even tasted. And WOWZA did it ever go straight to my head! For a few deeply uncomfortable minutes, I felt sure I would throw up or pass out, which is surely not the best first impression to make upon potential clientele. You will be pleased to learn (as I was) that I neither vomited nor swooned, and made it through, hopefully leaving them with the feeling that I am friendly and competent and not a weird socially awkward mole who hasn’t been around people in two years. 

I am getting more and more excited about our upcoming travel. But oh Mylanta there is SO MUCH LAUNDRY. I wish people would just stop wearing clothing so that I can get allllllll the laundry done and folded. Then we can set aside the things we want to pack for the trip, and make do with whatever remains. 

Also, my husband – who is legitimately WILDY busy at work, and never gets home before seven anymore – did a couple loads of laundry over the weekend. I discovered today that he had left the clean clothes in the laundry basket. A, I appreciate that he did some laundry; that is awesome. And B, I am constantly leaving laundry in the basket, or on top of the guest room bed, sometimes for many many days. But it still made me feel betrayed and petulant. 

Speaking of betrayed and petulant: Poor deprived Carla wailed at me today that she has no clothes!!!! and I never do any laundry!!!! and look at her overflowing laundry basket!!!!! The same child who has an entire closet full of dresses, and an entire drawer full of jeans and corduroys that she begged me to buy for her at the beginning of the school year. 

What did she end up wearing? Leggings and a t-shirt. And because it is still chilly here, I dredged up a sweater for her to throw on top. 

WHERE are all her sweaters, I wonder? Perhaps in the overflowing laundry bin, which I must once again put through the wash. I did notice that the bottom drawer of her dresser doesn’t close all the way, and it seems to be because there are some shirts that have fallen back behind the drawer, into the empty space of the dresser. But I cannot for the life of me get to them! The dresser is bolted to the wall and the bottom of the dresser doesn’t have enough room for me stick even a pair of kitchen tongs under. I guess the shirts will stay there until we move someday? Or perhaps we will have to figure out how to take the drawer off its track? But who knows how many shirts and sweaters are hiding back there! 

I am stressing about the keeping-keto portion of our vacation. Part of me wants to just give it up and eat as though I am on vacation… but part of me is deeply reluctant to cede the small amount of ground I have gained. Fortunately, most restaurants (YES, we will be eating in restaurants!!! Ahhhhh!!!!) offer things like steak or salmon. I will simply have to resist things like mashed potatoes and baked potatoes and French fries and desserts. Sounds doable, if not fun, but I suspect my resolve may crumble when everyone else around me is eating something delicious that I “can’t” have. My biggest hurdle, I think, will be hamburgers. I LOVE a hamburger, and I LOVE a nice buttery toasty bun, and I LOVE ketchup, none of which are keto-friendly. Well. We’ll see how it goes. 

Speaking of keto, I have ZERO IDEA what we will eat for dinner this week. It seems wholly unfair to have to keep planning and preparing meals when I am already planning and preparing for a trip. Maybe we will do a stir fry, using one of the MANY delicious ideas you suggested on this post? Maybe a pizza night? Maybe… a salad? I feel like I have some veggies I want to use up before we leave. Some sort of… roasted veggies smorgasbord? 

This period of Too Much Too Much Ahhhhhhh! has served as a valuable reminder to me of just how critical my daily workout it. I am not winning any ab competitions or even doing any sort of visible toning (perhaps there is a LOT of tone beneath the fat and skin; hard to say), but working out is almost the only thing that makes me feel tethered to reality. Sweating for a half hour, grunting my way through a bunch of awful squats, hefting weights over my head, focusing only on the directions/encouragement of the coach while I grind out another rep – whatever it is, it helps my thoughts slow their frantic dash around my brain. (And I know I have recommended her before, but I just adore Lindsey of Nourish Move Love. She is extremely kind and supportive and offers tons of modifications if you don’t have weights/don’t want to bend your knees so deeply/don’t own a booty band. And she does all the exercises with you, panting and groaning over the tough parts, which makes it all seem doable.)

I am going to leave you with some flowers. As per Swistle, I did not wait until my previous flowers had perished to replace them. Instead, I bought a new bouquet and added it to the original group. Carla requested white tulips, so white tulips it is. 

Last week’s batch are definitely looking a little faded and saggy. But you know what? They have their own beauty despite their age. And they are still standing

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I have done it! I have done the thing I always think I should do, and never do, which is to GET UP when I awaken in the middle of the night and do something more useful than lying awake, counting how many hours of sleep I could get if I fell asleep right then.

Lest you think I am no longer susceptible to the patterns of the past: I woke up at 3:00 a.m., almost on the dot, and then lay in bed/read soothing blog posts until 4:00, and then lay in bed in the dark, telling myself I should just GET UP ALREADY and start the day until 4:37. That’s when I finally Did The Thing and put on my glasses and came downstairs. I deserve a Sleep Award. Although, now that I think of it, a Sleep Award seems more appropriate for sleeping restfully through an entire eight-plus hours, so perhaps I’ll have to relinquish my claim.

In lieu of an award, I am drinking tea, as I do when I wake up. My stomach is a little uncomfortable with this idea – it thinks it is Sleeping Time, rather than Accepting Sustenance Time. It is also a little concerned about what time we will want lunch. 

If only the grocery store were open now, and I could get that over with! Oh well. I will blog about random nothings instead! 

  • Carla has been having extra trouble getting to sleep lately. Firstly, I feel just terrible that she has apparently inherited my fraught relationship with sleep. She has had trouble falling asleep her entire eight-and-a-half years, and that doesn’t bode well for the remainder of her life, which I hope is very long. At least, I suppose, she seems to be able to maintain sleep once she gets there. While I occasionally have trouble getting to sleep, my main issue is staying asleep.
  • Well, I suppose my brain is smoothing over the many, many times that Carla has come into my room at 3:00 or 4:00, or that I have awakened to learn that she had been awake for hours already. BUT, it seems less frequent than her troubles drifting off. The power of posting about something of the internet will immediately ensure that she wakes up at 3:00 every morning for the next month.
  • The only thing that comes close to the frustration of not being able to fall asleep is the frustration of one’s CHILD not being able to fall asleep. Last night, my husband and I were watching the first episode of Sex Education and I kept hearing suspicious thumps coming from upstairs. It was quite windy outside, and my husband felt that the thumps might be exterior noises, while I was quite sure they were human. And then we had one of those mildly irritating conversations I imagine happen frequently in any longterm partnership, where he said, “Do you want to go check on her?” and I said “yes,” because I’d HEARD “Do you want ME to go check on her?” And then he had to correct my misperception and I had to glare at him briefly before I went to investigate the source of the thumps. 
  • Thump source: Carla. Instead of reading quietly or thinking about sheep or doing deep breathing – all of which we have discussed AT LENGTH in regards to their soporific powers – she felt the best way to induce sleep was to get out of bed and gather some toys and play with them, in the bed. On the bed. Preposition the bed. Exasperation! Incredulity! How did she think this was a good way to get to sleep? And yet she seemed very sincere that she thought it would help. Trying to turn down the scold volume on my lecture, I removed the toys and reminded her of all the other options that we have discussed for helping lull our brains to sleep. Count backwards from 100. Count backwards by 5s from 1000. Imagine yourself, in great detail, walking along the route to somewhere you love. List 50 things you are grateful for. Go through the alphabet and name an animal beginning with each letter. Do some deep breathing. Read a book. Recite a poem over and over in your head. When I went back to check on her about 20 minutes later, she was fast asleep. Sometimes it seems like the BEST way to induce sleep is to scold her about it. Which seems… not right. 
  • Carla mentioned to me that she cannot see pictures in her head, so the “walking along the route to somewhere you love” isn’t a viable option for her. I love that she’s so aware of what it’s like inside her head. I don’t see pictures in my head either, but I guess my internal travel writer is so descriptive that I can still make that option work. Or I can drum up a feeling of a place that is almost as vivid as an image. 
  • Also, it is unfair of me to expect that she remember these techniques when I am terrible at remembering them myself! Only when I am DESPERATE for sleep do I recall most of these strategies. The one that I use most often – mentally reciting Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” until I fall asleep – sometimes doesn’t even occur to me in the middle of a 3:00 am wakeup. Instead, I turn to my phone, which almost certainly makes it HARDER for me to sleep. 
  • There was supposed to be a secondly somewhere up there. I suppose you have forgotten about it as well. But on the off chance you were waiting on tenterhooks – “You did the ‘firstly,’ what’s the ‘secondly’? WHAT’S THE SECONDLY?” – I cannot remember. 
  • I have finished my first book of poetry for the year. One of my 2022 aspirations is to read a poem every morning, and I have been keeping up with that so far. However, I may not have chosen the best book to start out the year. I selected a book at random and came up with The Seven Ages by Louise Gluck. She has an umlaut over the u in her surname; I don’t how to do that on my computer. I adore Louise’s poetry. (This makes it sound as though we are on a first-name basis, which we are not. I did meet her once, though. We went out to lunch and she is as fascinating as one hopes a famous poet would be.) But The Seven Ages is all about her contemplating her own death. That’s all fine and good, and it resonates, and I appreciate reading her thoughts from the perspective of being 50ish because I am nearing that age. But it was also a little depressing. Perhaps I will try a Billy Collins book next; I own two of his collections, but I don’t think I’ve ever read the poems; my impression is that they are lighter and sometimes attempt to be humorous.
  • One of the Gluck poems has really stuck with me. It’s called “The Sensual World,” which, in my opinion, mis-implies what the poem is about or how to read it. But poems are very personal, so you do you, boo. Anyway, the poem is about how the world will grip you in startling and unpredictable and inescapable ways. There is this moment of exquisite beauty that the narrator recounts, in the kitchen of her grandmother. A tiny moment: a glass of juice; its taste; the way the light refracts through it. But it leads the narrator to offer an urgent warning about the trap that life has set for you: “you will never let go, you will never be satiated. / You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger. / Your body will age, you will continue to need. / You will want the earth, then more of the earth – / Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond. / It is encompassing, it will not minister. / Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you, / it will not keep you alive.” It makes my heart pound, it resonates so deeply. I am so familiar with those moments – of shocking beauty that flares suddenly out of the mundane, of intense love provoked by the smallest, most inconsequential thing (a kitten at the pet store, butting its head against your hand; a child seeing you in distress and trying to soothe you with the very techniques you use to soothe the child; an unexpected kindness from a stranger; a moment of private humor with a spouse; a child, asleep, with hands folded beneath the chin as though posed). And I know the exact feeling of wanting to clutch those things with both hands even as I know – we all know – they are not ours to keep. It is not our lot to hold them forever, but only for the short time we have on this plane of existence. You will never let go. It will not keep you alive.
  • Yesterday, I experienced one of those moments of satisfaction/guilt that seem to be a hallmark of parenting. Carla was really anxious about returning to school (who knows why?!?! Is it the constant barrage of contradictory information, such as “Covid isn’t a big deal since you’re vaccinated; don’t worry too much, it probably won’t affect you too much if you get it” but also “make SURE you wear your mask and don’t breathe on anyone and for Todd’s sake, please don’t let anyone breathe on you!” Is it the fact that she hasn’t been in school for a month? Is it the fact that “school” could mean home/not home at any given time?) so I had to bribe her to even get her out the door yesterday morning. The bribe is not the satisfaction/guilt part, although perhaps it should be; it worked. I bribed her with a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (we are reverting to a “desserts on weekends” kind of schedule) AND with “something fun.” (She claims she never ever gets to do what SHE wants, all she does is go to SCHOOL.) I told her she could pick anything non-screen related, and she picked playing Barbies together. Sigh. I haaaaaaaate pretend play. It is the worst. But I agreed, and after school we played Barbies for 30 minutes exactly. Which is nothing. A tiny amount of my day. Then, when we were doing our bedtime mindfulness routine, and we got to the part about “what were you grateful for today?”, Carla said, “I was grateful that I got to play Barbies with Mommy.” No hesistation. Awwww. What a worthwhile way to spend our time together! But also: guilt, because I HATE playing Barbies. And yet it is such a simple way to make my beloved child so happy! Ugh ugh ugh. Well, I am not promising anything, but I will TRY to do more Barbies with Carla. 
  • A thing it turns out I DO enjoy is playing Sleeping QueensDo you have this game? I ordered it on a “my child is not doing enough math” whim last weekend and it is QUITE fun. There’s a video on the product page that describes how to play; it seems much more complicated than it is. And it’s a much faster-paced game than I anticipated. The basic object is that you want to get as many queens as possible. To get the queens, or to keep your opponent from getting queens, or to prevent your opponent from getting your queens, you need special cards. Your only chance to get the special cards is to discard a card from your hand. And – here’s the math element – you can draw more cards if you have an equation. So if you have cards in the values of 1, 5, and 7, you can only discard one of them and pick up one new card. But if you have 2, 5, and 7, you can make an equation and discard all three; then you can draw three cards. If you have/know a child in the young elementary age group, I highly recommend it. Because the number cards only go up to ten, the math is quite easy for Carla (although there’s no harm in keeping up with basic addition and subtraction), but it would be ideal for someone who is just learning to add/subtract. We also do multiplication, when it’s possible. I really wish there were an expansion pack with higher-value numbers. Anyway, I find it to be a really fun game and we have already played at least a dozen times. BONUS: This is a game that you can easily play with two people, which means that we don’t have to wait for Daddy to be home. 
  • I made my first foray into baked oatmeal. I am a little reluctant to post about it, because I didn’t love it. And I WANT to love it. It was both better than I thought it would be and worse than I hoped. But I think I chose the wrong (for me) recipe. It called for coconut oil, which – to me (though not to my husband) – ending up being the predominant flavor. I wanted an APPLE flavor. Also, I don’t think I put in enough nuts. The nuts were my favorite part. I need to do more experimentation before I can make a firm decision about not liking it. I think I will try this recipe next. 
  • I had a mildly negative interaction the other day that is still gnawing at me. It’s one of those things where the situation felt very fraught, almost purely because I am overly concerned with what people think of me. And the rest of it was fraught because it involved Covid, and I am caught in a wildly swinging internal pendulum of “you can’t control it and you need to find some way to live with it without forcing your child to be a miserable hermit” and “it is perfectly reasonable to continue to take precautions for the sake of those who aren’t protected/in order to keep Carla in school ” and “if you allow Carla to go to school, then how is this situation different” and “it is okay to have boundaries and limits even if they seem arbitrary; everything seems arbitrary right now” and “you and Carla are both vaccinated, you really can relax a little sheesh” and “arrrrrggghhhhhh.” I fervently wish I were the type of person who a) knows the exact right thing to do in any given situation and b) doesn’t care what other people think of me. I am neither of those people though, I am me. And as much as I try to be breezy, breeziness is not in my nature. And I DO care what people think, and I hate that about myself but I do.
  • Totally related to the above point: It is not fair to present a situation in one way, with clear parameters, and then to change the parameters in the moment. It is especially not okay to then pressure people into accepting the new parameters. 
  • Gah.
  • We have a new addition to our Dinner Plan this week. My husband requested Taco Tuesday. I think you know that I will never turn down a request for tacos. This is the beauty of planning out fewer meals than one intends to eat. You can just slide tacos right into the mix, no biggie. It is especially helps when you haven’t yet made it to the grocery store.
  • That reminds me that I have my check-up this morningIt is a totally normal check-up, so it should be fine. But it’s with a new doctor, in a new office, in a new location. So I am a little anxious about all of those things. Will I find the office okay? Will I get there on time? Will I like the doctor? Also, will I meet her for the first time while naked? That’s never fun. And then I have to do it all over again in a couple of weeks, because my PCP is retiring and I had to find a new one. (Hopefully I won’t have to meet her naked, though.)

Well, that’s it. I am already painfully aware that today is going to be a grind to get through; my 3:00 a.m. alertness has eroded into fatigue. But blogging is a much better way to spend the early hours of the morning than tossing and turning next to my blissfully sleeping husband, waiting futilely for sleep to bless me with its presence. 

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I have been having a hard* time getting into the Christmas Spirit, this year. We finally put up our tree this weekend, did some wrapping. Maybe that will help? I have been applying Christmas music – but sparingly, more of a gently waft of spirit in my general direction without further vexing the inner grump. I haven’t done any holiday baking at all – nothing for Hanukkah, nothing at all so far for Christmas. I am letting that slide because even thinking about it drives me further toward the grinch side of the spectrum. But maybe a nice batch of cranberry crumble bars would do a body good. I painted my nails in holiday colors, but they look like perhaps Carla did it. When she was three. With her left hand. My efforts leave a lot to be desired, it seems.

Well. Either the spirit will come or it won’t. 

In the meantime, I have been steeped in self-loathing. I have had three (3) Super Awkward Social Encounters this past week alone, and I cannot stop thinking about any of them, and cannot stop berating myself for being a mere simulacrum of a human person, and not even a passable simulacrum at that, and cannot stop feeling like I should really never leave the house, and yet also I have two/possibly three social encounters planned for this week and am having to do Deep Breathing and Soothing Talk-Downs to prevent myself from canceling. (They involve Carla, otherwise I might give in.) 

Encounter 1: Carla made personalized bookmarks for most members of her family. (Somehow we forgot two people, and I feel TERRIBLE about that, but I already shipped their gifts so I told Carla that she can make the bookmarks over her winter break from school and hand deliver them to the left-out family members when we see them this spring.) We took the first two to a local office supply store that rhymes with a group of syrup-providing trees to be laminated. And the lovely staff person who did the laminating refused to charge us for it. 

We were properly grateful, I think, and mentally I figured that we would make it up somehow by coming back and laminating the rest of the group. Maybe two bookmarks isn’t worth a whole lot in terms of time or laminating supplies. But the rest of them, I reasoned, would require more, and we would insist up front on paying. 

You know where this is leading, surely. The same staff person was there when we went back, and not only did she remember us but she asked cheerfully if we were back to laminate more bookmarks. And I said yes, and as she handed us the final product, I asked her what we owed her and she said, “No, I can’t charge that little girl for this.” 

Well, A. The little girl in question was not paying. And B, I wanted to pay, so I insisted a little and she insisted back and then walked back behind the counter to help another person in the growing line. 

When we got home, I called the store and asked for her name, assuring the person who answered the phone that I wanted to let her manager know that we’d received special service. And I called the number I found online and went through a tiny bit of rigamarole to talk to someone in customer service so I could leave a compliment. Here is where I assure you that I never told anyone that she’d given us something for free. As kind as it was, and as much as it endeared me to her, I think that her employer might frown upon it. I simply gushed about how kind she was, and how she treated my daughter’s art project with respect and reverence, and how she was prompt and efficient and friendly. 

But I have been WORRYING about the whole thing ever since. First, that I accepted this service for free – not once but TWICE. I mean, I shouldn’t have gone back there, right? Did she think, when she saw us again, that we assumed we’d get another freebie?

And what if her colleague told her that someone called and asked for her name, and now she is worrying that I tattled to her corporate office about giving us something for free? What if she pre-emptively owned up to it and got into trouble? What if I totally ruined a very nice gesture that she made the first time and have soured her on doing anything nice ever again?

Encounter 2: Carla, as you know, makes the rounds of our neighborhood to see everyone’s dogs. Well, unbeknownst to me, she had been chatting with one neighbor about her cat, who sometimes sits in front of the glass door and looks out upon his domain and stranger children riding their bikes in search of his enemy. So Carla came back to me the other day, breathless with excitement: the neighbor had invited her inside to see the cat! It had to be inside, because the cat was an indoor cat. Could she go inside?

I mean, you KNOW that mind goes instantly to murderers. So I accompanied Carla to the neighbor’s house and then stood Extremely Awkwardly in her front hall while Carla played with the cat. 

The neighbor was very gracious and lovely, but OMG. It was the absolute EPITOME of discomfort, because I felt that a) I had invited myself into her home, even though she nicely asked me to come in when I walked Carla over and b) I needed to make pleasant small talk, enough to allay some of the discomfort but also confirm to myself that she wasn’t a murderer. The thing is that I am terrible at small talk, and so there were long stretches of silence where we could both FEEL me evaluating her for murdery tendencies and where her desire for me to leave was EMANATING off of her. I got Carla out of there as quickly as possible, but she didn’t want to leave, and there was that thing — SURELY other parents deal with this dilemma? — wherein she was Acutely Aware that I was in nice mom mode, and I was incredibly reluctant to use a Mean Mom voice, and I wasn’t going to go deeper into the neighbor’s home to physically remove my child, which is of course nowhere near as easy as it was when she was two or three, so I had to wheedle and exercise patience much longer than any of us wanted.

It was horrific. 

And then, because I have never met this woman before – or, at least, I have no memory of meeting her before – I asked how long she’s lived on our street… and she’s lived here longer than I have, and I have lived her for A DECADE. So I felt awkward for being so antisocial and unaware of my surroundings in addition to feeling awkward about standing just inside her door.

She is never going to talk to Carla again, so reluctant will she be at the prospect of having me join them. And poor Carla is going to ask and ask and ask about the cat and it will be my fault that she is catless, both at home (I am allergic) and with our neighbor. Ugh ugh ugh.

Encounter 3: Carla and I went to an after-school event put on by several moms, and they mentioned something and (I apologize for being vague) I responded in a way that was both blunt and also kind of passive aggressive. It was not a well-thought out response: it just flumped out of my mouth and onto the floor without thought or plan, and I could have been much more tactful about what I said, and also – the thing that really burns my muffins – is that I didn’t even MEAN to be passive aggressive. I was simply surprised that a thing I had thought wasn’t happening was in fact going to happen, and I expressed my surprise in a way that sounded like I thought it was A Very Bad Idea Indeed, when really I do not. 

But the thing is, I said it the way I said it, and I said it in front of other parents who were not part of the immediate conversation, which of course makes everything worse. Once I had collected Carla, and come home, and sat down in silence for a few minutes, I was able to gather my thoughts and I emailed the organizers and apologized and spelled out my actual intention and apologized again. They were very nice and I think they understood and were fine with it. But of course I feel like an ASS. And then to put a nice juicy cherry on top of the whipped cream pile of my blunder, one of the other parents sent out an email to everyone who attended, praising the organizers and taking the position completely opposite to what I had. So not only was I an absolute jerk of a human, but people took note of my jerkery, and needed to Take A Stand against it – which is a kind, compassionate response! I am not faulting this person for publicly backing the organizers! – and it all just makes me feel awful. 

WHY must I be the way that I am. HOW have I so completely forgotten how to have normal interactions with other humans. WHAT can I do to be less awkward, aside from holing up in my house and never communicating with people beyond my immediate family. WHEN will I figure it out, because it seems to be getting FAR WORSE with time rather than getting better. WHERE can I move because that seems like the best and only solution.

Well. I can’t say that spelling it all out has made anything better. But I’m hoping that, at the very least, these encounters will stop playing over and over in my masochistic brain. 

* Listen, I know that it sounds so petty and dumb to be complaining about something so small when there is so much going on in our country and around the world that is Really and Actually Devastating. Please know that I am in no way trying to put my own tiny, lucky complaints up against anyone else’s. I am just blogging on my blog, about trivial and meaningless things, as I do. I think most people who stop here know that, and possibly – like I do – enjoy reading about the everyday ups and downs of people’s lives, and find it comforting and even a respite from The News, but I have been scrolling endless photos of neighborhoods and city centers flattened by this weekend’s tornadoes and I feel like I need to occasionally acknowledge that I fully understand my “worries” are nothing in the grand scheme.

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I don’t have any new shortages to report, although Lunchables, which seemed to recover briefly, are once again non-existent and frozen pancakes remain highly elusive. But I had to rush here immediately to alert you that iceberg lettuce at my grocery store is currently selling for $3.50. That’s U.S. dollars. THREE DOLLARS FIFTY CENTS. Iceberg lettuce

I am well aware that prices of many items are creeping ever upward, but this seems like a GIANT LEAP. Usually, a head of iceberg lettuce is somewhere between $0.99 and $1.50. So the increase feels rather dramatic. 

It wasn’t even a particularly large head of lettuce, either. Smaller than usual. 

I find it so curious that the label says “2 for $7” instead of “$3.50 apiece.” Does 2 for $7 sound BETTER? Because it doesn’t sound better to ME. When did ICEBERG LETTUCE become such a hot commodity?!?!

Well. The other types of lettuce seem to be holding steady at their normal egregious pricing, so I’ll just forego my beloved iceberg for something more nutritious and less delightfully crunchy, like romaine. 

I was so gobsmacked that I mentioned the price increase to the checker. He commiserated and said that the shock waves of the pandemic were causing very strange cracks in the system. Even though I haven’t noticed a big difference in staffing – I see the regular staff members I’ve come to know over the past decade – he said they are really struggling with understaffing issues. 

He was the only checker open – which didn’t strike me as too strange; it was eight in the morning after all. But there was a guy behind me with two items to my full cart, so I let him go ahead of me. Then a woman got in line behind me, also with two items. What was I to do in that situation? Let her go ahead of me, too? It would have taken five seconds but then what if the next person showed up and only had two items? Or five items? I told myself that I had done the nice thing, letting the one person jump ahead of me in line, and that I didn’t have to do it again. But she had SEEN him go ahead of me, and I didn’t want her to think I was a jerk. So I told her I thought that the customer service desk would check her out, since she had so few items. She thanked me and headed off to buy her muffin and juice at the customer service desk. 

The whole interaction was super awkward already, but then it became doubly so when I realized she was my old hairdresser. 

I swear to you that I blogged about breaking up with this hairdresser, but I rummaged around in my archives a bit and couldn’t find the post, so you will get a small recap: I went to this hairdresser for several years and liked her. But then she started outsourcing things to others so she could work on other clients. Not just the shampooing. But like… “Oh, I’m going to send you over to Dean to do your color while I cut this other person’s hair.” Or… “Kelly’s going to trim your ends and then I’ll be back to do your color.” I did not care for this. First, it was a salon that charges more based on your stylist’s level of expertise, so I felt a little miffed that I was paying for HER level but getting half of my hair done by Dean or Kelly, and who knows WHAT level they were… plus, I wanted to see HER because a hairdresser/hair-haver relationship is very intimate and based largely on trust. So after this happened a few times, I went elsewhere for my haircare needs. 

It’s so AWKWARD, though, to dump a service provider. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine having an end-of-relationship conversation with a hairdresser. “It’s not you, it’s me” sounds even more insincere when it’s directed at your stylist, right? So I just… ghosted her. (I did the same to the next hairdresser, too, which is even MORE awkward because she remains my husband’s hairdresser.) (Then my next hairdresser ghosted me, but that was because she didn’t return to work after the pandemic and who can blame her.) I have seen the old hairdresser out in the wild a couple of times, but on those occasions I spotted her from a distance and I think I was able to slip away before she saw me. Or if she saw me, it was as I walked speedily away, head down, eyes averted. Yes, I am very mature.  

But this was the first time I have seen her face to face. Not only that, but I SPOKE to her. I was wearing a mask and glasses, and I am several years older by now. Sure, I remember her name and her daughter’s name, and the type of books she likes to read, but I was one of many clients that she’s had over the years. So I’m hoping she didn’t recognize or remember me. 

There’s nothing to be DONE about this very small, very fleetingly awkward interaction. Even if she did recognize me. Even if she did think, “Wow, there’s that person who ghosted me half a decade ago.” Even if she reacted with anger or hurt feelings. I can’t change any of it. It will likely be years before I run into her again in public. And yet I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT IT, and may continue to do so for hours/days, twirling and twirling the interaction around itself, trying to reshape it or make it less awkward by perseverating on it. Why is being a human so rife with these little inescapable twinges and pains? 

Let us now change subjects abruptly to meal planning.

I went to the grocery store with one meal in mind, and while I was there I came up with several possibilities. So now I have a full fridge and a nice list of dinners to make for my family this week.

Dinners for the Week of November 15 to November 22


  • Fire Fry: We haven’t had this in a long while, and I am craving crunchy veggies in a fiery sauce. My husband made me promise to drastically reduce the amount of spices I add to the yogurt though. He is no fun at all. 
  • Chicken Paprikas: Another meal we haven’t had in far too long. And I have a bunch of cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken in the freezer just waiting to be added to a rich, creamy, potato laced sauce and poured over noodles. 
  • Asian Chicken Salad: I think my husband will appreciate this meal, as it is neither tacos nor chicken/zucchini stir fry, both of which he is tired of. I will probably make some teriyaki dressing as well since I don’t care for the peanut dressing listed in the recipe.
  • Chicken/Zucchini Stir Fry: Oh yes, I love this stir fry. It’s so easy and so tasty and all the zucchini makes me feel so virtuous. And despite my husband feeling like we have it all the time, we do NOT and it has been many weeks since we’ve eaten it and it is time once again. 
  • Thai Red Chicken Curry: Am I in a stir fry mood or what? 
  • Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Polenta: Why yes, this has been a recurring bullet on my dinner posts since October 25. I STILL have not made this meal, but the short ribs are in the freezer waiting to be immersed in red wine until they collapse in drunken ecstasy and the polenta is very calmly waiting on the shelf and I have a nice package of inexpensive-compared-to-iceberg-lettuce romaine waiting in the crisper, so perhaps THIS is the week it will all come together.

What are you eating this week, the last week before THANKSGIVING, which is somehow nearly upon us?

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