I'm sitting here watching Felicity on the video monitor (which I am afraid is going to breathe its last soon, as it's been having weird glitches on an increasingly frequent basis) as she sets out to take (or...not take) her first nap in a toddler bed. It's merely her crib with one side swapped out for a bedrail, so the change is not terribly drastic. Still, I'm on edge, anticipating the worst as I always do. She's not asleep yet, but she's lying there with her Piggy and Bear, just like always, and she seems to understand my admonishment to wait for Mommy to come get her when she wakes up. All signs point to this going fine, just like every other transition we've gone through with her. But matters involving sleep have put me on edge since even before she was born, so this is simply what I do and who I am.
I did chicken out on taking away her pacifier when she changed to the "Big Girl Bed," so in that sense I have a crutch; I know she'll be able to soothe herself even if she wakes up disoriented with a bunch of blank air and the sweet promise of freedom where a high wall of slats used to be. This gives me some comfort, something that I probably need more than she does. What can I say, I guard my sleep and my naptime productivity as if national security depends on it.
Despite my anticipatory fretting some six months ago, I sensed when Felicity was ready for potty training (and it went fine) and the same was true for the bed upgrade (she has been coveting her friends' big-girl beds for a couple of months now, and her sheer size was making it tough for me to get her in and out of the crib (she's around 40 inches tall and 32-ish pounds, by my rough estimates and our wonky bathroom scale) -- and this week she gave a hearty "yes!" when I asked if she wanted a bed like that of her own), and I know that she'll give equally clear signals when the pacifier is ready to go the way of the dinosaur. She's that type of kid, always has been. Usually it's my own dunderheadedness, fretting, or foot-dragging that has held us back from moving forward -- not out of a wish to cling to a baby Felicity who is no more, but usually out of my own need to hit a certain tipping point before making a big decision or momentous change.
I am the type of person who can become highly stressed about planning a vacation (not because I don't like to travel, but because I want everything to be Just So, and I am a hothouse flower with highly specific desires and needs, AND I want a vacation with a child that isn't going to leave me feeling less rested than when I started out), and who comes unglued when adjusting, for example, to new technology. Even something like a newer, sleeker Kindle has the power to set me off-kilter, because I'm so used to the old, heavy one in its cute hot-pink cover, which always pleased me when I saw it in my work bag, waiting for me to open it when I got on the subway for the commute home in the evening. Anyway, in the end I adjust, of course, and I try not to look back or rethink things too much, for that way madness lies.
To carry this tangent out a bit further, one thing my dad in particular taught me is to make a decision and then live with it rather than rehashing it in perpetuity. He served in the military, and I think that has something to do with the fact that he embodies this quality so well; after all, there's no time for wheedling, hemming/hawing, and useless regret when you're in high-pressure situations (and in wartime service, there is hardly anything but). Although, notably, I think all of my grandparents had this quality also, military or not, so perhaps it's also a generational thing. It's something that is falling by the wayside now, though, because we have so MANY choices and such infinite ways to weigh them, until we are paralyzed by the innumerable possibilities and their potential consequences.
It's taken me roughly 37 years to figure this out, despite the positive examples in my forbears. The times when I've been the least happy have fallen when I've been mired in agony over making a big decision, and when I've driven myself to the brink of sanity by rethinking old ones. Sure, sometimes it's helpful to revisit one's thought processes if one makes a gross misstep of some kind; or, for example, if you've gotten yourself into a massive pickle and must get out of it to be able to live a reasonably happy life, then you have to chip away by making different or better choices until you get there. But for the most part, forward momentum is the way to contentment.
Speaking of contentment, here are a few things I've done in recent times to boost my general outlook:
-- Getting up earlier. I know, I can hear you groaning, because this advice always makes ME groan, too. I am not a morning person in the slightest. And yet, once I resolved that this was something I HAD to do to make time to run and to de-stress the morning routine a bit, I was able to get myself into the habit of waking up at 5:45 (argh, I KNOW) in the span of a few days, and now I usually wake up before my alarm even goes off. Mind you, I don't do this seven days a week (are you quite mad?), but at least four of the weekdays, I am up before the sun.
-- This leads me to running at least four times per week (even better, five). Oh, I tried for a long time to get away with squeezing in a workout DVD between my leisurely wakeup time and when Felicity got up, but it was not enough for me. Jillian Michaels does fine if the weather is hideous or I'm short on time, but my brain and my body have made clear that I have to run regularly for everything to function properly. I'm not setting any distance records, just getting out there routinely and putting in 30-45 minutes at a steady pace. And now I crave my daily run -- I wake up and look forward to it. I am sure this makes you want to hate me, but everyone around me is happier when I am doing this, because I am noticeably less crazy.
-- Taking fish oil capsules (DHA/EHA). I am not someone who has a medicine cabinet bulging with supplements and vitamins. I took prenatal vitamins when I was supposed to, but since then I haven't bothered. However, this past fall, two different doctors recommended to me that I should take fish oil supplements. One said it would help with my dry eyes, which are so desiccated by the end of the day that I can hear myself blink, and the other mentioned that it could offset some of the mood-related side effects of my lady-pill. So I figured the medical establishment was trying to tell me something, and I started taking some capsules, and lo and behold, they help! I can't say that I am flying high on a cloud of ecstasy every minute of the day, but I feel less prone to hairpin mood swings, and my eyes really do feel much better. I don't come home and rip my contacts out at the same speed with which I tear my work clothes off, which is with a haste as if they were aflame.
Side note: I went to Ben & Jerry's the other day with a friend for an afternoon hot fudge sundae (as one does in the dead of winter), and the little screen on the cash register said, "Have an Ecstatic Day!" on it. Don't you think they're setting the bar a bit high?
(By the way, Felicity's still not asleep. She's been in her bed for almost an hour and a half. Even though during lunch, she sobbed to me that she just wanted her nap and didn't need anymore food. Come on, kid! Let's do this!)
Y'all, every time I sit down to write something here, I intend to write about balancing work and everything else, because I've gotten a bunch of requests to write about that and it's something that is on my mind a lot; yet EVERY TIME I end up yammering about something else. I suppose these things that I'm doing tie into that theme, in that to keep everything in balance, sometimes I have to do more instead of less. However, I promise I will mull that topic and write about it next time, and next time will be fewer than seven days from now. Deal?
Now for some mood-boosting photos:
This child was born to dance.