Get a cup of tea, settle in and prepare yourself to tackle a little novella if you're going to read this because I have a feeling it's going to be quite long!
My vacation in New Zealand was fantastic. We spent several days in Auckland and then ten days in the Bay of Islands at his family's batch... no internet, no cell phone...so restful. I'd actually consider moving there as it would be great for River, (it's rated one of the top places to raise kids) except for the complication of visiting friends and family; Jason's are all around one city, within a half-hour drive, whereas mine are in seven different states, so spending two weeks a year in New Zealand means spending a restful amount of time with each and all of them whereas two weeks a year in the States would mean a continuos stream of chaotic travel in an impossible mission to see everyone.
The restfulness of this time allowed my mind a clarity of thinking I didn't realize was missing, and the core reason for my sudden self-doubt hit me like a slap in the face: I'm perpetually tired. It's now been seventeen months since I've utilized any sleep-aids, seventeen months since I've gotten more than four and a half hours sleep total in a night. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out; I suppose stupidity is one of the symptoms of over-tiredness. A few years ago, I was taking a shower and couldn't figure out how to change the water from faucet to shower, I literally had to have Jason come and do it for me. I called my neurologist because I was convinced that this moronic slip-of-the-mind was an effect of the high potency sleep drug we'd finally found that worked on me: Xyrem, the date-rape drug, Ruffies. When I explained the situation to him, he said, Nope, sounds like you're over-tired, and sure enough, when I took more Xyrem, my mind came back.
The absence of my proper brain caused such angst; I couldn't think of what to say at the proper times, wasn't able to follow along the meaning of conversations, was forgetting things. I felt totally inadequate. (I speak in the past tense because I figured it out, not because it's remedied.) The personal frustration and feelings of inadequacy were accompanied by severe discontent with my teaching abilities. Before, I'd always felt I was a good teacher, was thankful that if I couldn't ride, at least I could teach. And then suddenly that was taken from me, too. I don't know why I didn't realize (well, I guess I'm now discovering why the reason eluded me). Before I had River, I knew that although I could function normally on 4-4 1/2 hours sleep, to teach properly for a whole day I needed six hours, so before clinics, I'd dose up on the Xyrem to make sure I got enough sleep.
My plan was to stop breast-feeding after New Zealand anyway, and now I have a new reason to do that. I teach one clinic before she'll be completely off the breast, but I'll plan to pump and dump (pump my drugged breast milk and dump it rather than feeding it to her) for that one, so I should be good to go. I'm extremely humiliated that some people may have seen me teach during those months (I'd say since June), and judged my value based on what they saw. I'm saddened that through my poor teaching at the NEDA show, I (rightly) lost some potential local clientele. But I'm happy that I now see a legitimate reason and eventual return to normalcy rather than just lamenting that it seems I've forgotten how to teach.
I'm excited about life again. This morning I registered Little Miss for weekly swim classes as well as tumblin' tikes, which is like a start to gymnastics where they play and tumble. It's officially for 1-2 year-olds but she got special dispensation. Of course Koryn or Jason will have to get in the pool or tumble with her, but I get to watch and I feel so lucky to have that ability.
(in case you can't tell, she's leaning on a window in the photo!)
I'm leaving for New Zealand on Saturday... for three weeks!! Yippee!!! It's by far the longest we've been. One time we went for six days because I didn't want to leave my horses, and two days of that is travel!
Traveling with a ten-month-old could be a challenge, but River's such a superstar I'm not too worried. However, Daddy's been doing laps trying to prepare for his non-stop aisle-pacing!
Little Miss is standing whenever she has a chance, is furniture-cruising and loves this wagon she can hold on to and walk by herself. I have a feeling her first independent steps will be taken in New Zealand. She's so big; everyone said kids grow like weeds, but my little dandelion (because of her yellow hair) is shooting up at rates faster than the eye can see--at least eyes that are on her all the time!
Her weight is actually causing me a problem. Because my muscling is so uneven, of course my left side does the vast majority, if not all, of the work. This unevenness strains my neck in unusual ways, so much so that swallowing hard hurt. But I guess I just need to schedule regular visits to the chiropractor and get used to perpetual neck pain because it's so worth it. She's a tremendous amount of fun, and the pediatrician agreed with us that her personality is stellar.
What else can I say? Regarding the horses, it will have been a long time since I've seen them when I get back because we've had a lot going on: Koryn went on a horse-hunting trip to Holland last weekend, we need her to nanny/Courtney-sit every day this week as Jason needs to do his Christmas client-visits, then I'm away for three weeks. I can't wait to see the progress Koryn will have made. It's very satisfying to see Koryn start to flourish as a trainer. I was worried that since I no longer run a barn full of clients, her progression as a trainer may suffer, but I put one past client onto her, word of mouth about her fantasticness spread, and now she's strapped for time. A couple of her clients are previous clients of mine, and I know what excellent people they are. I feel so lucky to have been involved with such stupendous people and have them still involved in my new phase of life.
So that's my life. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a joy-filled three weeks!
A three year-old girl came to our booth at Equine affair, and Little Miss was so obsessed with her, trying to climb on top of her, the girl ended up cowering into her mother, and when she left, River screamed bloody murder. At stores and the park, she's fascinated by other kids, so she's obviously in need of some time with other little people. I was very disappointed to lose the ability to go to the park due to the cold, so to sate her curiosity, my friend told me about an indoor park and we have a play date there tomorrow. I'm very excited. I also called a daycare that came highly recommended because, as much as it pains me to think of spending a whole day without her, I think it would be good for her socially to go one day a week. Jason and I are going to go check it out, and we aim to start to take her when we get back from our holidays in New Zealand.
Talking to a wom1an at Equine Affair reminded me of something I regret never writing about before. She was telling me how wonderful it is that I'm so open and my willingness to share my journey has helped many people, and my response was, It's too bad it took the accident of a top person to inflame the attention to safety, but if it had to happen to someone, I guess I was a good person to have it happen to because I'm fine. I have plenty of other good things in my life to focus on. And it's true; I was a good person for it to happen to. I can see how many others would clam up and shut out the rest of the world, let devastation consume them, and therefore, very little good would have come from their accident. But my nature is to be open, so I was happy to share. I shared simply because the public expressed that they were interested, and they've helped me so much in the past, I figured that's the least I can do. But now nearly five years later, I'm able to appreciate the good my openness has caused
I was at Equine Affair in Massachusetts last weekend and it struck me that things like that should elevate my self-esteem. Many people tell me I'm an inspiration, that I help them get through their own struggles. Several cry when they see me, say it's an honor to meet me. That should definitely satiate my ego, give me a big head, but my head remains the size of a pin. And as my husband pointed out, people idolize and adore actors and rock stars for their their talents, but they love me for the person I am. I said, I don't know what's wrong with me; I just feel embarrassed and undeserving, and he replied, that's the thing, you've always been too humble. And maybe that's it. Maybe I didn't have a buffer of ego, so when my self-esteem was challenged, it simply deteriorated. I decided to try to have this experience inflate my ego, so I consciously replayed in my mind the instances when people praised me and purposely took them to heart. And thinking of all the thanking me and praising me on Facebook really allowed me to adopt a better frame of mind, to think of my positive attributes instead of only the negative. So once again, I owe you, the public, my deepest gratitude.
Forgive my month of soul-searching, but I promised to share the good and the bad. And now the Courtney who's inspired so many is back. And boy does it feel good! I'm sure I will still have moments of self-doubt, but now they'll be balanced out with self-appreciation.
Now onto how I am currently. I often find myself thinking, this is heaven. Whether Little Miss is sleeping on my chest or my mini dachshund is curled in my lap while my daughter is playing with my necklace. And I think how lucky I am that I can spend all this time with her. My step-sister told me that at every stage they are, you'll think this is the best age, but when River was an infant, I thought, no, for me this is the best because we're both immobile. But she's right; now when she's interactive, I'm sure this is the best age. She's a bundle of perfection, made more perfect by the imperfections I'm sure time will bring.
Of course a large part of my anxiety and self-doubt stemmed from feeling like I wasn't a good mother because of my inabilities, both those caused by my accident and those I was born with. But I've come to a heathlier frame of mind: I may not be the best mother in the world, but I'm a good mother because I try hard, and I'd bet my life I'm the most loving mother!
Oh my, this pic was taken a week ago and it seems like a different baby; she's a standing machine now! We don't feel the need to guard her anymore--I should rephrase that--I refrain from guarding her or asking my husband to all the time. It's very hard to not be overprotective!
I've continued to write my stories--I've done two and a half now--and am continuing to feel useful by using my wheelchair. My bouts of sadness have disappeared, but my self-esteem still hasn't come back. For days, I asked myself why and chastised myself for being unable to figure it out. Then the other day, we were about to leave the house, and Koryn said, " Do you want to feed her before we go?" And i said, " How stupid of me! I thought about it and then didn't do it!" and really beat myself up over it. Then it dawned on me: it was a silly mistake, it doesn't make you stupid. I've simply been too hard on myself. Perhaps that's why my self-esteem has dropped. It's always been my nature to strive for perfection and to expect no less of myself, but I need to accept that I make mistakes. As Lendon said when I talked to her about it, My frame of mind is that I'm not the best trainer in the world, but I try hard. Yes, I try hard, and that's all I can expect of myself. Of course I still chastise myself, but I catch myself, tell myself it's no big deal, and I actually believe myself. We'll see if I continue to find success, but perhaps simply changing my frame of mind will get my self-esteem back to a normal level.
It's all coming together: feel so useful! Long story of how I got here... About five weeks ago, I had to get surgery on my toe because the spasticity caused by my injury caused me to develop a hammertoe. (All the toes were scrunched so tight it caused the second one to bend all the way up and it became fixed that way.) They cut the tendon and put a plate in to straighten it. Three weeks after the surgery, the bone beneath the plate broke and they had to go back in and remove the plate. (After the problem with my pump, I guess I'm a two surgery kind of gal.) I could put no weight on it (bless Jason for carrying me hither and thither), so I've been wheelchair-bound. I started taking the left foothold off the chair so I can push myself around, and I'm totally mobile! I can follow River around, pick her up, carry her, take away my dishes, organize a bit. I haven't had time to write! I thought I'd need Jason's help to transfer to my couch to feed and let her rest as when I'm in my wheelchair, I normally have a pillow, but come to find out, now that she's bigger, it's perfect! I'm having to do weights for my biceps, she's getting so heavy! So that double-surgery was a good thing. Plus Jason doesn't need to go to the gym!
We spent the weekend in Chicago where we helped my sister warm up her new digs. River got a ton of new experiences: a boat ride down the river, swinging in the park, watching a marathon, and she was a trooper throughout. When my sister asked her friend who has kids what to do with us, her friend's response was, "Well, the kid will decide your schedule" and Greta told her,"I don't think so. I think she basically does what the parents do." And that's the truth. We're extremely fortunate that she's cool enough to do that.
I've figured out the root of what's causing my bouts of sadness. It doesn't have to do with having had a baby; it has to do with finishing my book. Although I was extremely happy to be finished with it so I could focus all my attention on River, I was left without a challenge, something to strive for, to accomplish. Having a daughter provides me with a purpose-- a long-term meaning-- but I didn't have anything to set out to accomplish on a daily basis. It made me unbearably sad when I realized I felt I was just passing time in my life instead of living. Looking at my week was like this: Monday, go to grocery store and a walk in the park with Jason; Tuesday, teach; Thursday, pack; Wednesday.... What am I going to do Wednesday? Maybe we can go to the grocery store on Wednesday. I used to never be able to finish what I wanted to in a day, and now I'm looking to fill my days with a simple run to the grocery store. At least when I was writing my book, I felt I had a job, a duty, something I needed to do.
Several months ago, I realized I'd feel this way and knew I'd need to invest myself in something, but everything I do, I'm obligated to ask for help from others, which increases my feeling of being a burden and decreases my self-esteem. Even being a greeter at Walmart would necessitate transport there and then I'd need help to go to the bathroom, eat, or move my wheelchair anywhere. I felt I couldn't win this battle. As I said to my therapist, I felt defeated--a feeling I'm unfamiliar with.
Way back when, I knew that my options for independent productivity were painting and writing. I thought perhaps I'd begin painting again, but I realized that wouldn't be possible with a daughter because it requires large chunks of uninterrupted time. I thought the restriction on writing was that I can only write about things that happened, I can't make fiction, and I already wrote my life story. So I took an online course to learn how to write fiction, but it was totally unfulfilling and didn't teach me anything. Then yesterday it struck me: yes, I wrote my life story but there are tons of things that happened that I didn't write about. So I've decided to put together a new book, a combination of the short stories I write now and things I've written over the years.
I don't expect to publish it for several years as this is only to provide me with a purpose besides mothering and certainly will remain second priority. Yesterday I was all geared up to begin my first story, and although I only got two paragraphs written all day because my attention was so often on Little Miss, I can't tell you how good it feels to have something to work on, to spend the hours I'm lying awake at night thinking about my story rather that what LM will wear the next day.
It feels good to be me again. I'll continue my therapy because the sad me needs to get some attention. It was interesting in our session last week; she was saying that of course the sad me is demanding more attention than before my accident because there's so much more to be sad about. But it's actually the opposite. The sad and upset me used to have a voice; I'd have a bad ride or a client would get upset and I'd be sad, cry to Jason about it. I'd get irritated at the traffic or the lady counting pennies in the supermarket. These small day-to-day interactions allowed her to be present. Now, I have no interactions, I'm given no reason to be angry. The sad me never gets to speak out. "Ah, now I understand", said my therapist.
The weekend before last, Jason, River and I went to Burlington for my sister-in-law's fortieth birthday party, which was karaoke. Jason wore solid gold MC Hammer pants, which had the crotch at knee-height, and sang You Can't Touch This which River found fascinating. She was such a trooper, smiling and enjoying the party until 10 pm when we were kicked out. She even sang Girls Just Want to Have Fun with us, complete with her own solo. Did I mention I love her?
She also had her first playdate with Una, my sister-in-law's friend's nine-month-old. It was very amusing to watch them briefly interact; they looked at each other and compared toys for a few minutes, then went on to other things. A couple times, River was lying down playing with something and Una would crawl over, contemplate her for a moment and then start slapping her face as babies do with toys, a little fwack, fwack, fwack... River did nothing but shut her eyes each time. She didn't cry, roll away, show any signs of distress. She just peered at Una in confusion until Una's mom carried Una away, then she continued playing with the toy in her hand.
Emotionally, I'm doing ok. My self-esteem is still at an all-time low, but it feels good to have a plan to get it solid again. My best friend, Betsy, visited this past weekend, and although my instinctual desire was to make the most of enjoying my time with her, I made myself talk to her of my sadness. It was great. I haven't cried that hard in many years except when Quivvy died. She said she'd never seen me cry like that, and it made me realize, it's not only good for me, it's good for our relationship. It's kind of like the time a few years ago when my dad invited Jason to go out fishing and said I could stay with my step-mom. I immediately declined because I didn't want to burden my step-mom with the responsibility of caring for me-- help me go to the bathroom and the like. My dad got very offended, told me it hurt their feelings that I wouldn't let them help me, that sometimes it feels good to help a loved one, it makes you feel closer to them. Betsy's never gotten a chance to meet the vulnerable me, to help the vulnerable me. Neither have I. This afternoon I have my second appointment with the therapist and I'm very much looking forward to it.
Koryn had her first show at NEDA last weekend. It was also the first time Shanghai has been to a show, and he began the weekend getting eliminated because he jumped out of the arena and ended it winning First Level Test 3 out of twelve horses with a 76%! Second was 64%! Koryn got an 8.5 on rider with "correctness and use of aids" underlined and starred. Unfortunately Bimini, who we entered at Fourth Level, was very anxious and never settled so I decided the best thing for his future was to just school him and let him get secure at the show.
I have to admit that I didn't get back into the groove of showing till the last day... keeping an eye on the rider ahead of me and planning for every second to make sure I enter with my very best horse, schooling to show--to make 5 minutes from now good, not five weeks. But my two students did just fine, the other winning one of her PSG's out of nineteen horses.
It was the first show I've been to that brought about feelings of sadness that I wasn't showing. Normally I'm simply in trainer mode and it never occurs to me. My husband pointed out that these bouts of sadness I've been experiencing only began after River was born so perhaps it's postpartem. So I have an appointment tomorrow with a postpartem therapist to decide that, but regardless, I think I need to speak with someone because lord knows I have a lot of baggage. It's simply not in my nature to talk about my sadness because it's so fleeting, and I'd far rather enjoy hanging out with my husband or chatting with my sister than dwell on sadness. So I talked to a therapist this morning who my sister, who's a therapist herself, recommended. She talked about how there are many different me's inside of me. There's the confident me, the determined me, the humorous me. But there's also the sad me, the low self-esteem me, and these me's get buried under the other me's and need attention too. She said we need to show them we love them too. So that's what we're going to do, we're going peel the layers of this onion and hopefully what we end up with will smell like lavender.