I debated about sharing this. I write stuff down to help process it. Some I share but most I don’t. I have decided to share this in an effort to be accountable to my New Year’s resolution.
My sister visited over Christmas. She is a psychologist. It is very easy to hide from your psychologist sister when she is about 2500 km away. Not so easy when she is in the same room. She called me out on 2 issues. The first is my sleeping patterns. I average about 6 hours a night. Apparently this is not enough. The second is the time I spend on social media and how I use it to avoid what’s happening around me – this one was tough to hear.
Some background (for those who don’t know), my life is … challenging. My husband, Kev, has a degenerative neurological disease (HD). (Check out the rest of the posts on the blog.) While he is still independent and functioning well, his disease has taken some of his higher order cognitive ability, his short term memory and has made him anxious in high stimulus, pressure situations. He can no longer work and has great difficulty with most household tasks – the worst being grocery shopping and cooking. Even with a list, he can’t keep a single item, let alone multiple items in his head long enough to find them on the shelf. So shopping becomes a marathon of him reciting an item in his head over and over while he walks aisle after aisle to find it. Then he moves onto the next item and repeats the process. Add to this all the distractors in a supermarket and you have nightmare territory of stress and anxiety for someone with short term memory issues. As he has to work so hard to do this and part of his disease has an uncontrolled movement component, this is exhausting and requires him to sleep/rest for hours afterwards. Most tasks are like this. I tell you this so you understand why I am responsible for about 90% of household tasks and organisation.
We have 2 teenage boys who are heavily into music and sport. They play baseball for a club in Wollongong and a club in Camden and both have music lessons, auditions, rehearsals, etc as well as all that teenage social stuff to be a part of. This is a logistical nightmare requiring hours away from home driving to training, games, events, etc. They are happy and active and enjoying life while doing all of these things. Given their situation, it is important to me that they have as normal a life as possible. I am lucky to have great friends who help with all of this.
Professionally, I have had an amazing 12 months relieving as Teacher Quality Advisor for the NSWDEC, out of the classroom. I feel professionally refreshed and excited about teaching again. This has come at a cost. I have had to work office hours. As a teacher, I worked long hours but could leave at 3.00 to do the kid stuff then work at night. This has not been possible this year. I have also had to travel and stay away from home on numerous occasions. This has placed a greater burden on Kev. He has coped well while I’m gone but he crashes (both physically and emotionally) on my return.
Which brings me back to sleep and social media. My life is incredibly busy. I talk a good game and outwardly put on a brave face. Part of this is making sure I exercise. I get up early to fit this in. However, when things are complicated and I’m overtaxed for time, I just get up early to get things done, normal household things. Hence, my lack of sleep. Easy, just outsource a few tasks, make the kids do more and go to bed earlier. Sorted! (bahaha – who am I kidding)
When life is at its most stressful and I feel completely overwhelmed, I tend to disengage by reading or spending time on Facebook and Twitter. I claim that reading turns my brain off and allows me to escape and social media keeps me connected to my friends and colleagues in my time poor existence and that it improves my ability to do my job well. It does. Right? But at what expense? (I should also resolve to go a day without attempting to rationalise my behaviour to myself and others.)
When my sister pushed me on this, I argued with her about it, I denied I was ‘addicted’ to social media – I don’t think I am. And its OK to pick up a book and ignore everything else until your finish it. Everyone does that. But I am definitely using these things to avoid aspects of my life. I am using it to avoid being present with those close to me because often it is just too hard to accept what my situation has become and will continue to become. It helps me remain in denial. (Did I just give the classic definition of what an addiction is?) I have always tended to avoid putting effort into tasks to negate my fear of failure. If you don’t try, you can’t fail or at least have a justification for your failure that is not linked to your lack of ability. This tactic works particularly well for learning to drive and relationships. (Insert sarcasm sign here) I have always run away from the difficult emotional stuff. Maybe my inadequacies in being a good wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend are because I’m afraid of investing all my emotional energy into it and still being inadequate.
I can’t avoid it any longer. In the not too distant future, I will not be able to do it all and I definitely can’t have it all. I can’t hide from the most important people in my life. I can be present NOW, while it is still possible to do and have most of it.
So this New Years Eve my resolution is to be less connected with all of you so I can be more connected with myself and my family. While a real person is in the room, I will not be in a virtual room. They need me and I can’t hide in my cyber-world avoiding them and that emotional roller coaster any longer.
For 2015 my wish for all of you is that the important people in your life are present and that you can get all that you need to be happy, healthy and whole.