Today was a particularly bad day for having my shit together. I didn’t and I own that. I was tired, cranky, annoyed, and also tired, if I didn’t mention that. I think it’s possible I’m coming down with something, which is just par for the course of having a child. Children are tiny human Petrei dishes of germs.
I’m blessed enough that my husband has a good job and I can be a stay at home mom/rest as my disabilities require. Most days I have doctor’s appointments and/or some sort of issue so it makes sticking to a schedule kind of hard but I’ve gotten better at making it work. The stubbornness in me ensures that it’s taken about 6 years of ups and downs to really get to a point to where I can give myself breaks and not feel guilty about it but still get done what I need to get done. More often than not, I get more accomplished and with better quality if I pace myself.
I often would go too hard and too fast and then I’m useless for about a week from physical exhaustion, if not more. It’s one thing to know what you’re doing logically is stupid but it’s another thing to change that engrained behavior so the past few years have been slight changes, writing a plan, rewriting that plan, and then starting all over if it doesn’t work. It does get slightly better each time so maybe by the time Abby is 30, I’ll be completely normal. Hope springs eternal but then again, normal is really just a setting on a washing machine.
If I had any kind of advice to any veteran, it’s to try to shut off the military extremist “balls to the wall” mindset when you become a civilian. It’s the hardest “battle” I’ve had to face since being medically retired. Sometimes I’d go the whole day not eating because I was too intently focused on what I was doing. Whatever I was doing could be the most innocuous or unimportant task but my mindset from training is such that I have a hard time prioritizing anything lower than “needs to happen now and perfectly or people will die”. When everything is labeled “important”, actual important things fall by the wayside.
One of the biggest blows to the ego in boot camp was “you are going to get someone killed in the Fleet”. Sometimes I forget that I am not in boot camp anymore and that’s not PTSD, that’s just my own perfectionism and desire to function physically as well as I did as a 19 year old. Even if I wasn’t disabled, that’s impossible.
While this mindset of excellence in all things breeds efficiency and work ethic if employed correctly, in the mind of a person with anxiety and a hero complex the size of, well, Alaska (bigger than Texas – look it up), it’s not a great thing. If I was going to do something, I’d “have” to do it 10x better than everyone else, no exception. If I saw someone else fail at something, I never took that to mean that they were a failure but God forbid I failed at something. My standards for myself were and remain to this day very high but nowadays at least they’re realistic.
I think becoming a writer and being on the receiving end of numerous criticisms and rejections helps a lot. I can’t say rejection and I are buddies because no one I can think of really enjoys rejection but it can be used as a tool to make you better. Being a parent is also quite humbling. Overall, support from family and friends that can call you out on your bullshit helps more than anything.
My friends Cortney and Sheena had to sit me down for a “come to Jesus” talk a few weeks ago because I was working out so hard in the gym that I was quite literally passing out asleep. It was almost like I was narcoleptic but with no history of actually being narcoleptic. I’d work hard at the gym or at home and sit down and bam, lights out.
Instinctively and logically I knew I was working my body too hard but I’m also one of those people that if someone else is running next to me on the treadmill, that person and I are racing. They might not know it but we are and damned if I’d let anyone beat me at anything. I might be a little competitive, I think.
In the military we have a particularly eloquent term and despite Sheena and Cortney not being prior service, they knew what term to use: “Unfuck yourself”. It was like a lightbulb went off when I heard that. From now on, if I find myself slipping (because, realistically, this has been a 2 week process since my last backslide – I am largely a work in progress), I try to look in the mirror and say “unfuck yourself”.
Sheena and Cortney know me well enough to know I was backsliding and it was bleeding into other aspects of my life. Having friends like that is invaluable, especially to veterans with self-limiting issues. Sam was also helpful in suggestions to get my sleep schedule back on track (another problem) and he’s a veteran so he knew largely where I was having a lot of my core issues besides being my husband and knowing that anyway.
I’ve been doing a lot better. I haven’t been back to the gym in a week or so and while I do know I derive great joy and accomplishment from physical exercise, I am working on a plan to make sure I don’t go too hard or fast.
Today, Abby and I took a short walk to the park near our home when she got out of school and played. It was good to get out in the 45 degree weather (a veritable heatwave for Alaska) and enjoy the sun. We hiked around the semi-wooded area surrounding the park and hoofed it back home. It was nice to get some fresh air and exercise but also know that I didn’t have to kill myself to achieve that endorphin release I enjoy. Abby obviously benefitted because she got to go to the park and play with a couple of other kids.
In the immortal words of our friend, Guy Sachette, “Why go to the Alaska Club when you can go to Club Alaska?” He’s referring to a local gym versus the outdoors of The Last Frontier. I do believe I need to heed this advice more often.
Tomorrow is a hike to Flattop Mountain with Sam and hopefully some cool pictures – but I’ll be sure to pace myself.
I’m only human and there’s a lot more work to be done but the military has also taught me one of the most important lessons: I can do anything if I work hard at it, so right now I’m working hard at being kinder to myself.