Wednesday, March 28, 2007

walking unassisted

the paloma circa 2004 @ 14 mos

the porkchop circa 2006 @ 9 mos

sometimes, the thin man and i marvel at the paloma and the porkchop - about how quickly she started talking and how quickly he started walking... and now, i'm actually beginning to worry that they're getting that... spunk?... moxie?... gumption?... egads, aggression?... from me.

yesterday morning, i read a post called "transformations" over at chicago chick (who btw - is getting her family ready for the sale of their current condo and eventually the move into their new house, while weathering the plagues of financial hemorraging, physical torture and mental distress. hang in there, girl!).

anyway, in her post, she wrote something that has been on my mind ever since i read it:

"Yesterday I asked David if he loved me and he said that he loved me more lately. Of course I asked "Whaddaya mean LATELY?". His response was that he loved me more since I decided to become part of his marriage. Huh? He went on to explain that I am so independent that at times he didn't think I was his better half..... Maybe I'm mellowing out or maybe I'm just too tired to go the remainder of my life alone, but he's right. I am very independent and it will probably never change but I have learned to rely on him more."

coincidentally, i've been thinking a lot about my own independence (or lack thereof) and i just happened to flip thru a book of daily inspirations for the year (i've also been feeling a little uninspired as of late) and today, march 28, is devoted to "cultivating a self assured attitude". it says:

"....Self-assurance is an attitude that assumes you will always get what you need and that at this moment you are in the process of getting it. Self assurance assumes that others are available and want to help and that you don't have to do it all by yourself..... When a woman is too confident and independent, it is sometimes a sign that she is not at all sure that others are there for her, and so she has to do it all herself...."

of course, when i read this i had a "yeah. no sh*t, sherlock." moment. but, then it hit me. i am really not as self assured as i think i am. i'm not as self assured as i used to be, even a year ago. sometimes, i think with each passing day, that i am becoming less and less self assured.

honestly, i've never assumed that i would always get what i needed. and i rarely feel that i am in the process of getting what i need.

i know intellectually that there are friends and family and sometimes even complete strangers who make themselves available to me for help. but i ALWAYS feel like i have to do it all by myself. i NEED to do things by myself. and i do this for two reasons 1) i don't want to feel like i owe anyone anything (even if it's a pair of marshmallow peeps). 2) i don't want to appear weak or inferior or disabled (looking the way i do, it's almost a given, as in - ("she MUST be disabled, just look at her").

as a child, i wanted to grow up fast for my mom. she never asked me to do so but i just knew, it was hard for her to be a single mom, to make enough money to keep us fed, clothed and sheltered. it was difficult for her to work so often and so dilligently and know that i almost always came home to an empty house. life was always especially tough when i got sick or when i was due for another operation. my mother used to scold me all time for trying to do everything too quickly and certainly before i was old enough to learn, or rather, NEEDED to learn life/survival skills that she, as an adult, took for granted. i didn't want her to think that i was "behind" the average child my age. i needed to show her that she wouldn't always have to look after me.

eventually, as a single adult, i fashioned a life for myself. and i mean "fashioned" in the truest sense. i dreamt it up and meticulously designed it. drafted the pattern. shopped for the finest materials and notions to lovingly create it - cut it out, sewed it up, made some alterations - and it fit me like a glove. and to the general public, it probably looked like most "haute couture" garments - unwearable, confining, impractical, eccentric, maybe even a little fugly. but it was my life. and it sounds weird, but i especially felt like i had finally released my mom from her responsiblities re: me. i was finally and happily the only one responsible for me.

everywhere i had lived, i had always made sure that i could live there on my terms. at the very least, i (as a single asian female) had to live somewhere that was within my means, relatively safe, had public transit and/or the random taxi nearby and a grocery store within walking distance.

now, i'm married and a mother and i've taken on the responsibilities of caring for three other precious lives outside of my own. and almost every other day, i feel like i've failed one of them, if not all of them. a few days ago, i told the thin man that recently i started feeling like i was working retail again. i feel that same obligation i felt at former mcjobs to always smile when customers were nearby. i don't want to feel this way around my family or friends. i find myself feeling isolated both physically and emotionally (which isn't really a stretch for someone as antisocial/shy as me but it's been BAD lately).

when we moved to our house and this neighborhood, it fit the above criteria - pretty much. but with time i realized the harsh reality is this:

i'm living in a house that although it is BEAUTIFUL is way too big for me to care for and by virtue of its age will probably always need something fixed or replaced or installed. our neighborhood, one of the handful of chicago "cop and firemen" neighborhoods, is very safe but because of it's troubled racial history feels strangely unpredictable and volatile to me. although i live close to the commuter train stop, i am at the mercy of the train's (sometimes hourly) schedule (not to mention, two dueling toddler nap schedules and the short, easily tired legs of a four year old). although we live in chicago, taxi cabs (and they are legion, prowling like sharks for chum) do not wander aimlessly this far south. we live very close to a really great local organic grocer but it doesn't stock EVERY SINGLE THING i need. a grocery run might actually include separate trips to the drugstore, the liquor store and the italian deli - which wouldn't be so bad if they weren't all located at the furthest corners of the neighborhood. and it's just plain hard to get groceries in the height of a midwestern subzero winter (or even an extra hot and humid summer) with two children.

as a stay at home mom to two children, it's no surprise that i should feel confined to my home. but as a stay at home mom who doesn't drive (literally scared sh*tless to drive & bad eyesight), i'm also confined to the perimeters of our neighborhood (but, i can only visit the same places a few times a week before i start to look like a would be mrs. robinson to all the would be benjamin braddocks' at the local borders bookstore and i can only buy so much yarn and knit a handful of projects before i start to resemble a reluctant bachelorette stereotype...)

so the bottom line is i'm left to rely on others pretty much ALL THE TIME. i have little to no independence of my own. i rely on the thin man or family or friends for errands i cannot complete. if neither the thin man nor i can get groceries, i rely on peapod to deliver. sometimes, we find that we don't have any fixings for a good dinner and so we have to order it up - there are very few restaurants in the neighborhood. and many of them don't deliver. although we have met with pediatricians down here, i make the majority of our ped appts with our northside office (who know our histories) and only on weekends, when the thin man's schedule can accomodate us. occasionally, i rely on neighbors to drive the paloma to school when the weather is too brutal to drag the porkchop out on the walk to and from preschool (twice). any other kind of retail shopping (therapy) or diversionary gallivanting has to be done in a neighboring south suburb or on the north side (which is infinitely prettier) and, if being done with children, needs the use of a car. and have ya seen the dan ryan expressway recently?

realistically, we can't move. we really can't afford to move anywhere else and where else COULD we move? this neighborhood, with its great schools, parks, inexpensive, abundant and architecturally diverse housing, fellow cool & hip transplanted neighbors is really perfect for a young family like ours. i know this intellectually. but emotionally, i am completely torn up about it. i have never in my life felt so useless, so worthless, so powerless... like i so often do now. i worry about how this is affecting my overall mental and physical health, each unique relationship i have - with my husband, my children, my family members and friends...

all of which makes for a very very unhappy, very uncertain mamazilla.


Puglet said...

ooo good good post. I have no answers. Zip. Zilch. But in what you wrote, i understood it all.

ImPerceptible said...

I feel for you because I know how you feel. You've been through an emotional time lately with the wedding and everything. It's hard when you have small children that require so much care as well. Just hang in there. You'll get through this and find a way to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Before long the kids will be old enough to ride bikes or roller blade anywhere you want to go. You'll also be getting a good night sleep and that changes your persepective on things.

It's hard to be independant when you so many people that are dependent on you. It wear you down but it won't last forever. Mine are 7 and 9 now. I feel 100 times more independent that I did when they were little.

It's ok to feel like you are just trying to get through the day. there isn't a good mom/wife/woman anywhere that hasn't felt like that at some period. Feeling guilty about it will only make it worse. Just accept it for what it is and work towards making the best of each day. Even if the best isn't perfect.

I'm thinking about you and wishing you well.

Anonymous said...

You say:

i know this intellectually. but emotionally, i am completely torn up about it. i have never in my life felt so useless, so worthless, so powerless... like i so often do now. i worry about how this is affecting my overall mental and physical health, each unique relationship i have - with my husband, my children, my family members and friends...

Your feelings are present, regardless of my poor attempts to point out the various reasons your plight is not so bad, or fleeting. I remind you that neither you nor I can be "independent" like we were when we were single or without children. Even if we were living still in the South Loop, you would find you needed far more help than before and I think Peapod would have been in our future, since walking even one block down Wabash to the Jewel with two kids would have been tough work when the temperature is below zero, as it was through much of February.

A parent's "independence" after two kids is nothing more than wishful thinking, as much for you as for me. I have no greater independence than you, other than the fact that I can drive, which to my mind is not freedom as it is mobility. You may say it is is a distinction without a difference, but what does my ability to drive provide? For the most part, only the freeedom to get the groceries, pick up dinner or drive us all to other places.

You are not useless, worthless or powerless. Your kids love you and you have a husnband who still thinks you're the best thing that ever happened to him, regardless of your inability to clean the litter box j/k. You still possess creative talent that far outstrips that of mere mortals such as yours truly. These things exist and will always exist through arduous Chicago winters and playdates until the kids are older and begin to give you enough time for you to re-discover your own skills. In short, time is passing; finding your independence and talent and valuing yourself while your kids are young is hard, because the results aren't tangible. But I know your worth: you are still a good person, you have been a good mother and a good wife, and your value in making our house a home far exceeds any financial contribution you might have provided if you had maintained your independence and worked outside the home. You may not believe that, but I know it to be true.

Perhaps you don't measure up to your own standards regarding certain issues, perhaps you don't always measure up to your dumb husband's standards on all things; welcome to real life, where we all fall short of what we want to achieve and what others expect of us. I am not ignorant of my shortcomings in this regard. But this is not failure; you do so much right that the occasional misstep is nothing in the greater scheme. You are the rock of this family and you inspire me. Your children are healthy and happy, mostly due to you and your hard work. Your house is slowly but surely becoming something wonderful as more of your personality is stamped into it. And our house has a warmth and joy in it that simply would not exist were it not for you and your hard work. Do not cheapen that truth by lamenting for your lost ability to go to the grocery store.

Winter is hard. We just endured the hardest one since we came to Chicago six years ago. We have two young ones who are simply not easy. But focusing on your regrets and what you have missed as you live a mother's life in a Chicago neighborhood can only hurt. There will be a time in the near future when these kids will not need you as they do now. Fondly you may hope, fervently you may pray, for your freedom to arrive, but when it comes, you will also regret the passage of time and the loss of the intimacy that freedom will bring. You/we will have lives again someday that do not require us to live in such "isolated" circumstances. And by the time that occurs, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did a good job raising porkchop and the paloma, despite the sacrifices.

God bless my dear.

Anonymous said...

Mamazilla, I only know you through this blog, so I'm not going to try to negate your feelings, or tell you you shouldn't feel that way, it isn't so bad, or any of that. I just want to tell you to consider me a friend.

I learned how to drive just about 4 years ago. So having been someone who went through most of her 20's relying on public transportation, spouse, friends and co-workers - I understand. I'm also in the category of "I must do it by myself." Because I have been let down, a whole lot. I understand.

Shelly said...

Hi, I really enjoyed reading your blog. Was wondering if you
would like to add it to my directory?
Weblog index

Thanks, Shelly

tessence said...

This is why I have been so paralyzed regarding our own planned house purchase. Although I do drive, I, too, have the fear of feeling trapped and isolated and this is one of the main reasons why I never wanted to move to the suburbs. And now we're contemplating a move to the (near) suburbs and it's scary.

Hang in there! Give me a call sometime if u wanna chat.

eatmisery said...

The Anonymous commentor above can only be your husband. Right? And what a wonderful man he is.

It's okay to lean on him; he welcomes that. And spring is around the corner, so maybe the cabin fever will lessen.

Be tough and be strong. You are a wonderful mother, a talented woman, and a gift to the man who calls you his wife.

Irene said...

Ah grasshopper, you and I are very much alike. And, that's not a bad thing at all. We all have to rely on each other even though we may not want to.

I have no words of wisdom to give only that independence is not a bad thing and relying on those you love and trust is not a bad thing either. The bad thing would be if you DIDN'T have people you could rely on. Oh, and thanks for including me as part of your post - I feel so honored (seriously).

Irene said...

Oops - second part:

Paloma is such a cutie! I walk like that when I've had too much of a good time out with the girls!

mamazilla said...

puglet - what's that? you're fed ex-ing me some baked gooness with lots of chocolate? WOW! THANKS!!! and by all means, if you think baking a chocolate orgy for me is the ONLY way you'll get to sleep... i'll sacrifice my pride for you... *chokes back tears* ;) i'm headed over to check out your latest adventures in pasta...

imperceptible - you asked your readers on your blog what we look for in another blog and why we read them. honestly, i read your blog because it is reminds me that these grey days are temporary. that these days will swing like a pendulum. that i'll get thru it because i'm not alone. words are not enough to thank you for your kind words and your thoughts. i'm SO glad i found you via thezeroboss! :)

anonymous - the porkchop is napping, you are sitting on the couch with the paloma in your arms while you both watch the cars movie. although, you don't know it(cause i'm hiding it really well so as not to worry the paloma), i'm crying. i don't know what else to say except, i love you.

bokumbop - seeing as we've already established the FOBBY irish boys connection, we're bosom buddies. ;) it's especially nice to know that you know where i'm coming from on the non driving front. i don't feel nearly as alone.

shelly - thanks. i'll check it out.

tessence - omg. having lived here most of my life i can assure you... oak park is far from isolated... no one really considers it a suburb. you'll love it, i promise - you'll see. :)

eat misery - the thin man is a wonderful man. it's true. he is a gift and i'm very very lucky in love. just gonna try to keep on keeping on... :) and many thanks for the kind compliments - right back atcha.

irene - the honor is all mine. btw - i'm cheering for you all the time. can't wait to hear about the new place. hope you post some pics!


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