Saturday, November 23, 2013

Heartbeats

At my first doctor's appointment after I'd found out I was pregnant with Bronwen, I had an ultrasound. The first time we saw her, at seven weeks old, she was just a peanut. A gray, hazy peanut. I teased Shane that the baby obviously looked like him.

The goal of the ultrasound was threefold:

1.) To determine the number of embryos. (Thank God there was only one. The thought of twins/triplets/even greater -ets hadn't occurred to me until the doctor said so.)

2.) To determine time of conception more accurately and to set a due date.

3.) To see if there was a heartbeat.

You can't see a heartbeat when everything is gray and ghostly. The doctors or nurses performing the ultrasound have to set up what I think of as the Technicolor setting, which allows you to see where bloodflow and whatnot is. The doc switch Technicolor on, and there it was.

A red thrum thrum. It took up her whole peanut-like body.

Flash forward to this morning. Bronwen is now five years old and has discovered a stethoscope. She's sitting on the floor, using it to listen to a doll's hollow chest. And now she puts the stethoscope to her own chest.

I think of that whole-body heartbeat and realize:

She's hearing the same heart. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Missing Your Goal Doesn't Mean You Didn't Accomplish Anything

2013 has five weeks left in it. Back in January I set myself a Goodreads goal to read 100 books this year. By October, I'd fallen so far behind the pace that there was no way for me to hit my goal. I was something like 30 books behind and it would take me the rest of the year just to catch up, let alone hit the goal. So I dropped the goal to 90, which cut my catch-up in half, and I proceeded to read as many books as I possibly could.

I'm not gonna hit 90 books.

Last night I looked at my numbers. This year I've read 64 books. According to the Goodreads counter, I'm fifteen books behind. So I have to read at least three books a week for the rest of the year to even catch the books I'm behind.

Last night I felt like a failure. I'd missed what I'd set out to do. In frustration, I looked at my stats -- the section in Goodreads where you can see how many books you've read and how many pages you've read and compare that to other years. I stared at the 64 books. I stared at 20,000+ pages. And felt like a failure.

Then Shane, who was reading over my shoulder said something like, "That's over a book a week." He said something like, "I've never read that many in a year."

So I looked at my stats again.

Prior to this year, the most books I'd read in a single year was 56.

Prior to this year, the most pages I'd read in a single year was 15,745.

Both of these records I've blown away this year. And I realized that I was being too hard on myself. Did I hit my goal? No. Which stings. I said I would do something, and then I didn't do it. It's like breaking a promise to myself.

But I have done more this year than I have ever done before. How could I not be proud of that? How could I beat myself up for that?

The answer is I shouldn't, and I'm going to stop right now. In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, I'm not going to look at what I don't have and be thankful for what I do. And what I have are 64 new books under my belt, five weeks to read more of what I want to read, and an opportunity to set a new, badass record for myself.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Game Playing Reveals Inner Monologue is an Abusive Psychopath

On my phone I have a game that I'm sure a great deal of you are familiar with: Bejeweled -- a game where you match up jewels and blow things up and earn points. It's a great way to pass the time waiting in line at the DMV or the doctor's office. The game does not require a lot of brain power.

Recently, I noticed -- while playing the game -- my inner thoughts would say things like:

Some of you may be familiar with similarly somewhat engaging games on your phone or Facebook, like Candy Crush, Words With Friends, and (if you haven't been on a phone or computer in this decade) Tetris.

"God, you're so stupid, how could you have missed that?!?"
"Faster! Shit, you've got the fingers of an arthritic grandmother stuck in the Arctic!"
"Why the hell did you do that? You're such a dumbass."

And so on, depending on whatever 'mistake' I'd made during the course of the one minute Bejeweled Blast session.

Having fallen into a funk recently, I've been trying to think about how I think, just to see if maybe I'm being hard on myself for no justifiable reason. I've been paying attention to the words I use toward myself.

But, see, when you're talking to yourself, it's really hard to hear what you're saying. You're so used to hearing it. Does that make sense? So I hadn't noticed anything rude or untoward about my inner voice.

Until I played that random game on my phone. Then certain things stuck out:

stupid
how could you
slow
old and stiff
dumbass

Those are just from the three examples I chose to share. These are fast thoughts. Thoughts I thought without thinking I thought them. By the time I noticed I'd thought them, I was thinking different things. Really, it's surprising that I noticed how harsh I was being to myself.

Of course, Bejeweled is such a little game. It takes a minute to play. You only have to have a preschool education to play it. The world does not depend on you winning or losing. Yet, I was beating myself up over it. I spoke pretty darn hatefully in my mind.

After hearing the negative Nelly so clearly in the game, I noticed it in the other areas of my life.

Writing: The writing is going to slow. Why did you watch that TV show instead of working on your next chapter you lazy ass? You're messing it up. 

Acting: No one will cast you because you're too fat/can't do accents/have no training. Useless. Why are you doing this instead of writing? 

Family: You're a horrible mother, look -- on a list of things you can't do right, you didn't even list them first. You're selfish. How can you hate to help a kindergartner with their homework? It's not like the homework's gonna get easier Retard.

Again -- thoughts that come and go like wind. (And trust me, these are some of the more mild ones.) They keep poking in, leaving a tiny, pinprick hole where the go in and out.  Unfortunately, if enough of them come and go, your brain turns into this sieve. Things leak in and out and you have no control.

In an effort to stop these little bastards, I've taken to writing down at least three things I have done well during the course of the day. I started this reluctantly because it seemed a little too Self Help for my taste. But I'm glad I've started. Even after just a couple days I feel more positive and my funk is lifting.

Basically, what recording and catching positive thoughts does is give you ammunition -- something to fire back at the enemy of negative thoughts. After a while, all those positive things you wrote down in a notebook become a physical thing: paper after paper of things you've done right. It's hard to argue against thousands of positive words. I'm excited to keep building that evidence up.