Archive for December, 2012
Join the Resolution

New Year’s resolutions can be tedious, disappointing, and trite, but I do value the whole process of reflecting on my life and how I choose to spend my time.

Over the past week at home, I’ve been editing a document that contains random bullet points of minor and not-so-minor things that I’d like to focus on this coming year.  Some of these things are concrete.  Some are not.  But I think some of the more meaningful items are more oriented to how I approach my life, how I think about myself and my family, and how I will regulate my behavior so that I can have a more peaceful, restful, and enjoyable year.

I’m not going to detail the whole list here, but I’d like to mention some of the more important resolutions.  In no particular order:

  • Stay far, far away from all social media and avoid all blogs (except this one, of course!) for the entire month of January.  I did this one last year, and it was GREAT.  It got me off on the right foot for the year in terms of directing ALL of my screen time to academic endeavors.  I felt like I had renewed focus on research, I wasn’t constantly checking my phone for status updates or other interruptions, and I wasn’t unfairly comparing myself to everyone else under the sun.  This is a resolution I will have EVERY year, and I’ll probably also adopt it for the month of June as well, for a mid-year reality check.  Let the palette-cleansing begin!


  • Exercise once each week.  Why not 3 times each week?  Because I don’t think I can fit it in.  If I aspired to 3 x/week, I’d get stressed, frustrated, and would feel like I had failed.  Once each week—-I can manage that.  I’ll get *some* exercise, which is better than nothing.  And I know that I can do it, especially if it’s only once a week.  As for the type of exercise, it will really be whatever I’m able to fit in, or whatever I’m in the mood for.  I start tomorrow.  Tomorrow I run.


  • When I get stressed/anxious/agitated/frustrated, stop what I am doing, take a breath, and try to figure out where those feelings are coming from.  Do less if I have to.  Always do less if it means maintaining my sanity.  I’ve been overwhelmed this year.  That much is clear.  I don’t always feel like I have the tools to manage those feelings, but I think I bring much of it on myself by trying to do too many things at once, and being completely unrealistic in my expectations of myself.  So this year I am going to devote a lot of effort to trying to do LESS and to being aware of my limitations—and when I feel like I’m stretching myself too far, training myself to reign it back in.


  • Be present.  Talk about not being quantifiable!  This is the kind of thing that gives me the fantods as a researcher—how does one MEASURE “being present?”  I don’t know, but I think we all know what this intangible state feels like.  When we’re present, we’re fully experiencing something, we are more empathic, we are better listeners, we feel more connected in our sensory and interpersonal experiences.  For months (particularly in the summer and early fall), I felt like I had a cloak around me, or like I was in a fog.  Like when I was with people, I wasn’t really with them.  Something was separating them from me (or me from them), and it was almost like a physical barrier at times.  I could touch my boys but not be touching them.  Or cuddle them and nurse them, but feel nothing.  My mind was somewhere else, and I knew it, but I couldn’t bring myself back.  I know it was (or is) anxiety and depression, and I’m hoping that my awareness of it will help me get over it.  My research group incorporates meditation into our meetings on a monthly basis, so I’m hoping that these sessions will help me with this resolution.  And/but/so the first resolution up at the top of this list is related, in that disconnecting from social media will help me reconnect with what is happening around me here and now.


  • You know, I wasn’t going to have this resolution, but since there is so much snow on the ground, I’ll just go ahead and say that I really want to learn how to cross-country ski.  Wouldn’t that just address everything on this list in one fell swoop?


  • Continue to do something nice for myself once each month.  In January—cashing in my massage that Rob got me as a Christmas gift.  Can. Not. Wait.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s.  Take care of yourselves and hug your loved peeps tight.

A crazy December, a crazy year

We are less than 2 days away from Christmas at this point, and I am just now wrapping my mind around that fact.  We had a very emotional and intense December, to the extent that I didn’t do a lot of thinking or planning for Christmas.  At the beginning of the month, I was still somewhat settling into a work routine, and trying desperately to get Emery to sleep more.  Also at the beginning of the month, I started on a project to spruce up our bathroom which was in dire need of TLC.  I wanted to keep costs down, so I did all of the painting myself, Rob and I installed the floor ourselves, and we updated some of the hardware and other items with relatively inexpensive replacements (before and after pictures to come within the next week or two).  I know it seems crazy to embark on a project like that when sleep is in such short supply, but I really wanted to fix up the bathroom as a little Christmas present to ourselves.  I was tired of mopping the bathroom floor and having it still look gross.

On December 9th, we got some awful and unexpected news.  We found out that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law had lost their baby at nearly 40 weeks.  It’s a nightmare that you don’t hear much about anymore, which makes it all the more shocking.  We headed to Maine the following weekend for a memorial service (which sadly ended up being held on the day of the massacre at Sandy Hook).   I worried all week about the reception following the service, as this would be the first time that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law would meet Emery, and I was super sensitive to how this might make them feel.  Luckily, they were OK with having Emery around, and they even smiled and talked to him.  Even on the hardest of days, little E was able to bring a smile to someone’s face.  I had various unexpected and surprising emotions around this event, too many to even chronicle here.  Most notably, though, it strengthened my appreciation and love of my children.  I guess that this is the only silver lining that can be taken away from such tragedies.

Also on December 9th, my boss’s husband suffered a massive stroke.  He died 3 days later.  My boss has only recently completed her chemotherapy treatments, and everyone is worried about how she’ll fare in the coming months.  Because of her husband’s death, my boss was out of the lab for most of December.  So, it looks like I will not be able to submit my grant, as she hasn’t had the chance to fill out the relevant paperwork in support of the application.  I’m actually OK with this setback.  One day at a time, right?

Just 2 days ago, I went downstairs into our mudroom, only to find our little pet rabbit laying in her cage motionless.  She was alive, but she couldn’t get up at all.  She couldn’t eat or drink, and she couldn’t assume a sitting a position.  I took her out of her cage and put her on a towel.  I petted her, gave her kisses, tried to comfort her.  Rob came home from work early and we took her to the vet where we had her put to sleep.  She died in my arms as I petted her.  I didn’t cry.  I had her for 10 years, and I didn’t even cry when she died.  I was really too busy thinking about how I’d explain it to Holden.  Only 2 weeks ago I had to explain to him that his much-anticipated cousin had died right before she was born.  Now we had to explain that his pet rabbit was dead, too.  But we explained it, and he took it in stride.  He was disappointed and sad, but almost immediately those emotions gave way to acceptance and peace.   There’s no other choice in these situations, other than to be honest, and recognize the resilience of young minds.

So now we are headed into a new year.  I feel like the only good thing about 2012 was that Emery was born.   I’m sure that there were lots of other good things too, but they seem to be flickering and amorphous.  This year was very hard for me.  I was challenged by a lot of things going on with my family in the months following Emery’s birth.  Health issues were always at the forefront of my thinking, and I was plagued by constant and intense anxiety for most of the summer and early fall.  Things are better now, but I still have a lot of work to do to feel like my mind is free.  If I have [re]learned anything from my niece Grace, it is to let all inconsequential events slip by me, and to instead focus on my precious and sweet boys.  My Emery is crawling now, pulling himself up, babbling, eating lots of different food, sledding for the first time, and of course, resisting sleep.  My Holden is obsessed with The Hobbit, loves drawing scenes from books and listening to They Might Be Giants, while also talking about his favorite planets and speculating about the origins of the universe.  I love both of these guys so much.  I look at them smiling and laughing and wonder what challenges they will face.  What pain they will endure.  What situations will push them to their mental and emotional limits.  And I hope that I am capable of giving them the tools they need to cope with this life.  This life can be brutal.  It can take things away from you without explanation.  But this life is also good and rich and filled with limitless opportunities to learn and be connected with others.  Can I model this resilience for them?  Will 2013 be a better year?

Yes and yes.