Although it is certainly exacerbated by social media (especially for a FB junkie like me), the impulse to put one’s best face forward is not new. Rather, I find this drive to be a deeply human one. I often find myself thinking that it is useless to complain (when it comes to the mundane minutia, not the big picture political stuff), as it tends to magnify my problems, reinscribe the icky feelings, and obscure the things that are good. I am sometimes so accustomed to putting on a happy face, that I don’t effectively process my negative emotions. Instead, I find myself singing the same old refrain: “Everything is good. No, everything is great. I’m so resilient and resourceful, how could I be anything but happy all the time?”
Of course, sometimes it is very healthy and effective to highlight the good stuff, but the thing about negative emotions (particularly unacknowledged ones) is that they are resilient and resourceful. They do find expression, but often in far less honest and productive ways. In my experience, they behave like barnacles, attaching themselves to whatever insignificant nuisance is ready-to-hand, and next thing I know, I am making passive aggressive comments about dirty dishes or blowing up over dirty diapers.
In my more careful moments, I stop and ask myself, “Why am I so angry about something so stupid? What needs of mine are not being met?” And I backtrack, and I reflect, until I realize, “Gosh, I’m really lonely. I think I’ve been lonely for weeks.”
So I think what I need is a good ol’ fashioned bitch-fest. I need to get all my negative thoughts and feelings out on the table, not to solve them, necessarily, but just to process them: to unearth them and let them find voice for their own sake (not laminated onto whatever domestic things is bugging me), so that I can cultivate self-empathy and move on with my day.
But this . . . is hard for me. I feel shy, embarrassed even, compelled to reassure everyone, before I even begin, that I’m fine. There’s plenty of good stuff, too. But you guys know that, right? So let’s get started.
(1) I’m lonely (unmet need for connection)
As referenced above, it wasn’t until I had the chance to hang out with some really good friends of mine a couple of weeks ago that I realized I was lonely. I guess hanging out with a five-month old doesn’t fulfill my need for adult interaction. And, to be honest, I haven’t put any effort into making friends, and I haven’t been the best at keeping in touch with my old ones.
(2) I need a babysitter (unmet need for independence)
Gosh, I love that sweet baby, but my goodness do I need a break. Sure, Rafal gives me a little time to myself when he gets home from work, but he works 10 hours a day, so naturally, he’s pretty tired. And the two of us haven’t spent a moment alone in months.
(3) The baby still doesn’t sleep (unmet need for rest)
I really do mean that we haven’t spent one moment alone, because we are still struggling through this so-called “four month sleep regression,” which means short micro-naps, frequent night wakings, and a deep desire—on Lydia’s part—to be held all the time.
(4) I’m jealous of people who’s babies do sleep (see above unmet need for rest)
When I talk to other friends with babies and they tell me about their sleep patterns, I could just about burst into tears. What could I do if she took a not one, but TWO, two-hour naps a day? How would I feel if I could sleep six, seven, or eight hours a night? What am I doing wrong? I really don’t want to let her “cry it out.”
(5) Wolves and bison and bears, oh my! (unmet needs for safety and entertainment)
I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but I end up staying cooped up a lot of the time because its just too dangerous to go hiking alone with a little bambino.
(6) Also, the goddamn mosquitoes (unmet need for comfort)
I swear I am not overreacting. I’m talking about swarms of these mf-ers. Two days ago, I took L for a walk in our neighborhood (not in the deep woods), for maybe twenty minutes, and both of us were wearing baby-approved bug spray. And we both came home covered in bites. And what’s even worse is that they hang out by our door and sneak into the house whenever we come and go, so at any given time, there are up to 20 mosquitoes inside. And they hide! And they bite us in our sleep! The other day, Lydia woke up with SEVEN bites on the side of her face. Now that’s just cold, even for a mosquito.
(7) I still weigh 35 lbs. more than I did when I got pregnant (unmet need for self-love)
And the seemingly unavoidable cocktail of bears, bugs, sleep regression, and joint problems (see below) are making it very, very hard for me to work out on the reg.
(8) My joint problems are exacerbated by the elevation (unmet need for comfort)
Swollen knees, sore shoulders, achy hips: just, you know, living my life. And no chiropractors or massage therapists within two hours. (But who would watch the baby while I got a massage anyway.)
(9) I don’t have wifi (unmet needs for connection and entertainment)
DAMMIT DO I MISS THE INTERNET. I REALLY REALLY DO.
Just to post this very blog, I had to type it all out ahead of time, then get out of bed at 6am to tether to my phone, and wait upwards to twenty minutes for the gd thing to post. And between the hours of 9am and 9pm, just forget about it. I can’t even check Facebook on my phone during those times. I mean, we signed up for Netflix DVD delivery, if that puts it into perspective for you guys. The struggle is real.
(10) I have Julia Graham syndrome (unmet need for creative fulfillment)
Any Parenthood fans out there? You know how Julia’s husband Joel supported her and stayed home with their daughter, Sydney, for nine years? But then everything completely went to shit when Julia couldn’t return the favor for three months? OK, yeah. To be fair, we didn’t have a kiddo, and Rafal never “stayed home,” but he did live in a small town that offered him zero career opportunities and worked jobs he sometimes hated for seven years so I could go to graduate school for something I loved. Now I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for just a little over a month, while he is thriving at a job that he adores. I, however, am having mad job envy and I am itching to get back to my own career, despite the fact that I made a commitment (on my own, not pushed by Rafal) to put his career needs first and stay home with Lydia for “a couple of years, at least.”
(11) I am disappointed in myself for being upset about everything listed above (unmet need for self-love)
When I read this list, I see myself as shallow, selfish, and weak. But that’s the point, I guess. We are all sometimes shallow, and selfish, and less than strong. But at least by acknowledging these parts of myself, I can own up to them. And can see them for what the are: just parts of a bigger picture that will pass, if I allow them to run their course, and not shove them down and ignore them.
With all of that said, I am going to resist the urge to compose a second list of everything wonderful around me. I am going to let all of this sit and just be what it is: a list of things that suck right now, some of which may change, and some of which I just have to get use to. In the spirit of Bataille, I am going to let the low be the low. And that is going to have to be OK.