At about 10:30 pm, I went to sleep with three young adults laughing together in kitchen. It warmed my heart. At about 1:30 am, I woke to doors slamming and young people yelling. It froze my heart. I cop to joining in the fray. I am a beast when I’m awoken from a deep sleep. Or maybe a beast within me awakens. Even the dog started whimpering.

When the ruckus settled, I could not fall back asleep. Adrenaline. Guilt. Fear. Worry. Sadness. Failure. I don’t know. I’m reading Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion so I tried to comfort myself and recognize that we are in difficult times and there will be interpersonal conflict during our days and nights.

I am only human. And, as Neff suggests, how would I console a friend who was in a similar situation? Am I a not a friend to myself?

The upshot — hey, you know me, there has to be an upside — is that first thing this morning, I reached out to T.C. at BetterHelp, an online counselor. See, last fall, my primary care doc, Dr. E., had suggested, given the circumstances of my life, a regular mental health appointment could not hurt, might even help. I’m no longer on Zoloft. When I had protested, saying, “I’m too busy,” she, my wonderful Dr. E, said, “Try a virtual therapist. They can be just as good. Convenient.” Which I did. (I chose BetterHelp as it was offering free trials, which I discovered on one of my social media sites. But I’m sure TalkSpace or any other virtual therapy is also decent.) I was assigned T.C. who was smart and pragmatic. I think that she lives in the Albany area and has a bit of a Brooklyn accent.

We had several useful phone conversations and some texting check-ins. It definitely helped. But, hey, you know me, I was super busy. I did not want to be confined to any regular appointments, even phone calls.

Fast forward these several months to today: I am, like the whole world, circumstantially challenged by this time of necessary confinement. The circumference of my life has been compressed. While I’d rather not have woken and become a part of the middle-of-the-night mudslinging fest, I’m glad, in a way, that I did, because it prompted me to seek help. Over the course of my life, I have found therapy — talk therapy, especially — extremely beneficial. It helps me see the forest for the trees. I am grateful for any strategies for hope and healing. I look forward to better communications within the family about our emotions during these difficult days.

Pile on People and Activities

My number one rule is pile on people. I like to pile on activities as well as people. It is my way of coping. I like to say yes to every invitation and expand on every good idea offered — lessons I learned from performing improv.

Calder's Red Mobile, creative commons

Families are like fine art mobiles — when one member swings one way, the others move another — compensating, balancing, attempting to maintain equilibrium. With Chris’s increased slowness, I take on more. Like the arm on a mobile, I swing faster. I fly one way, while other pieces bounced along. Life swings every one. With Chris away with siblings in the Adirondacks this weekend, I did more. And I liked it.

When he’s gone, I depend more on friends.

Here was my Sunday. I got up early.

  • journaled
  • blogged
  • cabbed to pick up Charlotte from a sleep over
  • brunched at friends’ — lovely — bagels, lox, whitefish
  • dropped Hayden at church
  • napped for 20 minutes
  • got the car
  • picked up H. from church
  • dropped one child off at Randall’s Island, Icahn Stadium
  • drove to Cold Spring to get Kate from her sleep over
  • walked around with friends and K. in Cold Spring
  • watched the people fishing
  • chatted, picnicked by the harbor with friends
  • ate yogurt at a yummy yogurt place
  • picked up K.’s things from Garrison
  • drove K. and myself back to Randall’s Island
  • cheered H. and his team at track and field events
  • drove friends and kids back to city
  • parked the car at a lot
  • made dinner — chicken, rice, broccoli, strawberries
  • helped H. pack for 5-day bike trip
  • cleaned
  • sent myself and the kids to bed at 10:30

In a family, there are tons of ways to cope when a spouse is out of town, sick, or just unable to deliver the goods. People tell me, “You do too much.” Yet I would rather pile on people, activities, work, exercise, kindness than pile on resentment, solitude, inertia.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in how to balance your life based on the image of  a Calder-type mobile. Balance is not part of my vocabulary.

Enthusiasm, passion, friendship, too many activities? That’s the way! Pile it on.