A Day In The Life Of A Catastrophist
5:30 AM. Every day starts the same way. I need no alarm–this works out well as I am always too tired to set one the night before. This is rarely a problem as my anxiety usually sends messages to my over-worked cortisol system at 5:30 AM every day, waking me up with a rapid heart beat and mind racing. Does my high-schooler have a test? How many activities have we scheduled after school today? Is there a required coffee for Upper School, Middle School or Lower School? Have I sent all of the appropriate notes to the corresponding teachers regarding any dental, orthodontic or health appointments my kids have this week (because if I haven’t we will ALL be punished by the school with their rather vindictive, and ant-intuitive, 6:45 AM detention). Am I having a heart attack (sadly a real possibility as my mother and grandmother both dropped dead at around 5 AM with a cardiac arrest), or is this just my stress? Is my stress going to lead to a fatal cardiac arrest? If I keep smoking my cigarette a day in the backyard while the kids are at school will that kill me or reduce my stress? Am I still technically a non-smoker if I only have three one cigarette a day? Fuck it.
5:45 AM. Can I fall back asleep? Maybe I should just go look at the bank accounts and see how they are faring, given all of the tuition, tutor and orthodontia bills we have?
5:50 AM. A quick look at CNN, instead of the bank, and I realize I should probably be saving my money for a hidey-hole in Colorado or Wyoming and not spending it on tuition or braces because the nut job, whom less than half of America has elected, is probably going to launch the nuclear codes any minute when Little Rocket Man insults his comb-over.
5:55 AM. I will still need to pay the bills even though the world is ending because I want electricity and Netflix until the very last minute. Even though Netflix is making me fat. Because Netflix and chill means Netflix and SkinnyPop to me. And even though the bag may say “SkinnyPop,” when you eat three bags of it it goes straight. to. the. thighs. According to my doctor there are two possible reasons why I am gaining weight on a diet of kale juice and SkinnyPop. Option A: peri-menopause (for those of you blessed with not knowing what this means, it is approximately ten years of mood swings, anxiety, depression, hair loss, weight gain and hot flashes that happen when you are caring for youngish children and your parents all at the same time). Option B: my high cortisol levels due to stress (my cortisol levels are so high that they had to do a scan to rule out brain cancer–tell me I don’t know stress and catastrophe). Either way the doctor’s advice is the same: meditate and eat broccoli. I hate meditating because when I quiet my thoughts I just find new things to worry about. And broccoli. No. When I am stressed I don’t want broccoli. I want SkinnyPop. Which is ultimately sugar. Which is stored in my thighs. Because of maybe peri-menopause, maybe stress. The irony is the popcorn is the only thing that alleviates my stress.
6:00 AM. I should probably use this extra thirty minutes to make a homemade breakfast that has organic free range eggs (protein), whole grains, and fruits. Maybe I can make a peanut butter and spinach-smoothie and sneak some veggies in there. If I manage that, do I still have to put vegetables in the dinner? Because if I actually commit to this breakfast that involves pans, toasters and blenders, I will still be cleaning breakfast at three, which won’t leave a lot of time for dinner prep. I am not that woman who has thirty healthy crockpot recipes at hand. Don’t get me wrong. I have a very nice crock pot. I just don’t know where exactly it is or how to use it.
6:20 AM. The neighbors are texting me that the dogs have woken them up at an “uncivilized hour again and they are definitely reporting me to noise control,” but if I let the dogs in they will eat this lovely breakfast. Also who the fuck is asleep at 6:20? I should definitely look into what school their kids go to, because it’s definitely time to wake mine up if they are going to be at school at 7:45. Which. ??? That’s right. The doctor’s, all the doctors, say school should start later. But mine start at 7:45. In fact it seems that with every further study about how bad this sleep deprivation thing is, our school pegs on another 15 minutes to the morning arrival time. Dogs stay out until kids get down here. The food will be cold. I tried.
6:45 AM. Amidst the cacophony of three (sleep deprived) children jostling for computer chargers, and dogs trying to eat their food, I attempt to guzzle a second cup of coffee. This requires locating the coffee mug, which is probably on the washer because I wanted to get a jumpstart on the magically never ending pile of laundry that appears in the hallways, floors and beds in our house. I would say laundry bins, but that would give my family way too much credit. In fact, I no longer even bring the laundry bins upstairs. The empty bins just mock me as they sit empty while I pull socks out of tangled sheets and damp towels off of the floor. I debate which is more work: walking down the stairs for my first cup or dirtying a second. I grab a new mug and try not to yell at the kids because for shit’s sake it’s not seven yet and what kind of day will it be if I am yelling before seven AM– that seems like a larger failure than I am currently willing to entertain.
7:00 AM. Why don’t my workout pants fit? They are made of lycra. By the very definition of “lycra,” these are pants that S-T-R-E-T-C-H. WTF SkinnyPop, Cortisol and Peri-maybe-menopause. (I really have very few of the menopause symptoms–ask my husband–he says no way–and I refuse to believe he says that in the interest of self preservation). But seriously, it’s not menopause. Why don’t these pants fit? Maybe these are an accidental Lulu Lemon purchase. Where are some Target workout pants. I used to love running. Now I like, tolerate it, because of SkinnyPop. I have sixty identical pairs of running shoes (because HAHA– New Balance you will not fuck me over when you discontinue the only shoe that I like), but trying to match them at seven AM when I need reading glasses, but haven’t caved and bought them yet, is really hard.
7:30 AM. Three children. Zero shoes. Zero backpacks. Three computers sitting open on kitchen counter. One fifth grader playing with slime in the basement. One fourteen year old boy doing his hair (glad one of us gets to), one thirteen year old boy packing his bento box lunch with romaine lettuce, cheese cubes and cucumbers. I so hope I haven’t passed along body dysmorphia. Need to call child shrink and ask about his healthy eating habits. Although. Isn’t that what I want? No time to think about this we are late.
7:37 AM. Get all three kids in car, start car, realize someone left dogs outside. The dogs run away a lot. They jump the electric and physical fence–I dare Trump to build a wall they can’t handle–and so someone needs to run back in and let them in. Last one in the car is the rotten egg.
7:40 AM. We have five minutes to complete the fifteen minute route to school. My children all curse like sailors. The drive to school is the reason why. Once I accidentally dropped the “c-bomb.” That was bad. Very bad. I sit at lights yelling at the “grandma who needs to start using the mother-f*cking bus because she can’t see anymore.”
8:00 AM. Kids are dropped off. It’s time to run with the neighborhood moms. I may be the only one who eats. Actually definitely the only one who eats. Am exhausted before I start run, so it is likely to be a cruel five miles. Hopefully I can steer clear of any conversations revolving around the parental obligation to provide a balanced breakfast served on China and with a napkin. I may have whipped up eggs today but Cheerios are always on the proverbial table Chez Nous. Also must avoid any conversations pertaining to forthcoming SAT practice exam, other children’s grades and extra-curricular achievements. Have woken up feeling like more of a failure than usual and my fat thighs not fitting into spandex, combined with lecture on poor parenting and hearing about other people’s kids’ (opk’s from here on out), accomplishments may drive me to binge eat/shop or do both simultaneously much earlier in the day than I am comfortable with.
9:00 AM. Dogs have taken all the trash out of the kitchen garbage and so I must spend twenty minutes picking up butter wrappers covered in coffee grounds and random other disgusting crap that they have spread all over the already rather dirty floors. I am pretty sure there is a bloody bandaid and some orthodontic rubber bands in this mess. I am a human Roomba. A Roomba that does laundry, cooks and drives. And if Elon Musk is right, all of these jobs will soon be automated meaning–that’s right–job redundancy. Which would ideally mean more time to write. But since half of what I write is complaining about driving and cleaning–double job redundancy.
9:15 AM. Quick sweep through house to gather socks, water bottles, wet towels, pajamas, and the gooey remnants of slime that cover our bathroom floor, despite slime being off limits outside of the basement. Bring down to basement and fight off feelings of bitterness about the very expensive Masters Degree that is being put to use as Human Roomba. Repeat inside head “I am grateful I do not live in a SubSaharan African country where people would be chasing me with machetes.” Quickly realize this train of thought serves no purpose except to send me down a black rabbit hole of despair. Decide angsty feelings of existential anger focused on family members who are seemingly incapable of removing empty cardboard sleeve from toilet paper roll and replacing with actual toilet paper a far healthier emotion for the day.
9:30 AM. Take off Apple Watch. Am happy with number of calories burned thus far. Step on scale. Bad idea. Five pounds that have appeared over last three years that refuse to go away. No amount of green juice will move the number on the scale. Why did I get on scale? Look at Apple Watch again. Have thirteen minutes to shower, apply make up, blow out sweaty hair (are there people with actual time to wash hair), get dressed, let dogs out, give dogs water, make beds, find car-keys, get a green juice and get out the door to take two children to orthodontist.
9:45 AM. Leave house with HSA card which has finally been re-filled so will finally pay orthodontist in full. Paid in full sounds like orgasm if you say it fast. Look in rearview mirror. No makeup but sunblock is streaked all over face and I look like Kim Kardashian before her crazy guy blends all the streaks of makeup in the tutorial videos.
10:00 AM. Pull up to middle school building to pick up 13 year old. No child. Call secretary. She will send him right out. (Unlikely). Text child to wait as I have to grab ten year old from lower school (which is nowhere near middle school). Arrive at lower school and see secretary munching on Fritos…which…scale? Am told she forgot to tell teacher that there was an early dismissal. Sigh. I remember when incompetence was seen as a reason to let people go. Run through building in high heel boots I have put on to compensate for feelings of chubbiness. After six classrooms and feelings of hostility that are ratcheting up by the minute, I find her in the band room, grab her and run out the door leaving her tuba for teacher to dismantle. Go back to middle school to discover there is still no middle child. Go into school. Secretary cries that she has misplaced him. Channel inner calm that I don’t actually possess. Find child. Drive to orthodontist. Am told I am late and will need wait an hour. Read emails. Discover passive-aggressive informative email from assistant head of middle school lambasting my thirteen year old for ignoring note on his locker. Am told by friendly mother I don’t know in orthodontist’s office, that sending said secretary a poisonous plant would indeed be inappropriate and that I should wait at least thirty minutes before composing a reply email. Try to determine why I am paying almost six figures to send my children to a school where the incompetent administrators are openly hostile towards me. Rethink putting kids in public school and tuition money in high yield interest account.
11:45 AM. Drop children back to school and head to Whole Foods. Arrive at Whole Foods only to discover that all the other crazy moms have cleaned the store out of green juice. Will have to be a hard boiled egg day. Must get dinner. Thoughts roll through my mind as I lament the scarcity of kale juice. “Good mom” could buy salmon, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and prepare it all with anti-inflammatory spices. “Lazy mom” buys a rotisserie chicken, store made ratatouille and rice in a microwavable bag. I go half and half, I will make the salmon and Mrs. Whole Foods will make the rest. I remember Safeway and life before GMO’s as I checkout. This only upsets me, as I think about my father who used to take me to Safeway but now sits a few miles away totally unaware of anything going on, as Alzheimers whittles away at his humanity. I tear up in the Whole Foods line. This is what expensive sunglasses are made for.
12:30 PM. After unloading the groceries into the refrigerator and throwing away prepared foods that have gone bad (because trying to predict how much food two adolescents will eat for dinner is harder than predicting Powerball numbers), I go to check emails. Twenty five emails from school. This is unacceptable. I cannot go to three grade level coffees, I cannot bring a child to a cross country dinner in addition to his cross country breakfast and twenty cross country meets, and no I will not give the private school any more donations…because you keep sending me annoying, petty and redundant emails. One child has lost his school issued hard drive, another has messaged me from school that he forgot his cross country uniform and can I please bring it to school and another has three upcoming field trips and I have not signed the requisite forms. I google “high yield interest earning account or tuition for private school.” It is unhelpful. I sign the forms for the field trips and google “dangers of school buses on field trips.” Why does life make me want an Ativan at 12:30 every day?
1:00 PM. After going down the black hole that is CNN in 2017, I decide to write. I am an idiot. I cannot write. How did I get a Masters Degree? What happened to my brain…is it possible it was sucked away by the dryer with all of my socks? Is it the Ativan I took the week my mother dropped dead at 69? Is it lingering trauma associated with my mother dropping dead three months ago? Or the stress of caring for six animals, three children, one father, and sort of my husband? I realize I never paid the bills this morning and it’s probably time to do that. I also realize that I cannot locate any of my bills so they are either in the glove box of the car, or one of my purses.
1:30 PM. I have found several bills and compare them to my Excel spreadsheet to see if I am missing anything urgent like the electric or gas bill or most importantly the cable bill (because Netflix). I pay the bills I have located and wonder how our friends are on track to retire in six years. I am forty-five, my husband is forty-four. Is retiring at fifty-two the new thing? If so…fuck. I want to nap. Actually I want to go to bed for a year and wake up with seven million dollars. I see no scenario where this happens. Also a year without lasers, botox, filler, and hair removal means I would wake up looking like an older version of Brendan Frasier in Tarzan. Plus who would take care of kids–if husband not working then no money.
2:00 PM. I have spent thirty minutes immobilized by anxiety over money, potential health issues and the possibility of a nuclear war with North Korea. I realize in my immobilized state I have forgotten to schedule my endoscopy to check on the status of my ulcer which seems to have returned with a vengeance. Also realize I haven’t eaten yet. This would be good if it led to weight loss but it seems to lead to shaking and the shaking makes me think I am having a stroke.
2:30 PM. I have written a little, done a load of laundry, located lost cross country uniform, made healthy after school snacks and need to leave to pick up thirteen year old. Dismissal times for children (at same school) are 2:45, 3:15, and 5:30. This is super convenient for me. I add it to running list in my head to read to school when they call to ask why I am not making a donation. And then I realize I have lost my keys again and will be late for first pick up if I do not hurry.
2:45 PM. Arrive at school. Ponder the most mysterious question in the universe. “What are the parents who get to carpool line an hour and a half before pick up doing in their car for an hour and a half, and could these people possibly have more anxiety than me? I mean an hour and a half early. That’s like, seven and a half hours a week, two hundred and eighty hours a year which is over ten days they spend in carpool line, to? Make sure their kids are the first ones picked up after school?
2:48 PM. Pick up thirteen year old. He tells me he loves me and is eternally grateful for me giving up my life to do laundry, cook food, vacuum and drive asks if I will take him to Starbucks. I acquiesce. Because. Vente Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte.
3:12 PM. Re-enter second carpool line. Am recipient of death stare from administrator whom I haven’t always seen eye to eye with. It is only October. Must remember to ask husband to please get off of work for Halloween Parade so I have a battle partner when administrators try to cast silencio spells on me.
3:28 PM. Leave second carpool ride. Marvel at children’s ability to argue over feet touching one another in such a short amount of time. Drop first child at house. Take second child to barn to ride her pony. This means I will sit here at the barn, inhaling the sweet scent of horse poo while my daughter: tacks up her pony (twenty minutes), rides pony (one hour), cleans pony (twenty minutes), walks pony to field (ten minutes), fucks around in field (twenty five minutes). Also, yes, I know if my life involves a pony I have UTP’S (uptown problems). Amazingly knowing this does nothing to alleviate stress.
5:28 PM. Leave barn. Drop this child to sitter ask the sitter to put salmon and other food in oven, feed six animals, keep children off of phones, have them practice piano and drums, set table, put away their laundry, and shower. I will be happy if two of these things are done when I return.
5:40 PM. Pick up third child who is covered in blood and upset. He fell, skinned his knee and got lost during a cross country meet. No, not one of the four coaches noticed the blood. My mind is overcome with the sound of my blood pumping fast through the veins in my forehead. One time my blood pressure got so high that my nose started pouring blood. I am married to a doctor so luckily he was able to convince me I wasn’t dying. I try to breathe “in two three four, hold two three four, out two three four.”
6:00 PM. Have vocal and inappropriate verbal sparring match with fifteen year old who says he “doesn’t care about cross country.” Use the “f,” word several times, quote Winston Churchill a few times, and try to explain that anything you do, you may as well do to the best of your ability. Feel tremendous guilt because it’s watching me wallow in laundry that has stripped my child of his drive. This is what I get for being a stay at home mom. Kids without drive. Guilt and shame. Themes of the day.
6:45 PM. One hour until Netflix. Learn the American history I didn’t learn in high school. Learn African history I was never expected to learn in high school. Braid child’s hair. Spray ants with Lysol as I am terrified ant spray will poison me and my animals. And my kids. Clean cat vomit. Beg children to pack their own lunches. Put away laundry. Offer middle child obscene amounts of money to put away laundry so I don’t have to.
7:30 PM. Check emails. More passive aggressive informative emails from school. Must make sure middle child does not wear ripped jeans. Must make sure ninth grader is aware that I will never take him to a 6:45 AM detention. Feel the veins in my forehead bulging again as I mull over aggressive informative email from school administrator telling me their detention policies are wonderfully thought out. The morning detention has nothing to do with sports being more important than academics and teachers not wanting to give up their lunch break. Must be more upset than I realized because blood starts dripping onto computer out of my nose. Breathe. Maybe I should cave and buy the not quite 50% 10 % Happier App.
7:45 PM. Spend two minutes thinking about all the overachieving moms I know who swear that they “don’t have time for television with their careers.” Think about writing. Write. Get annoyed at the fact that I can’t write and watch television at the same time. Grow guilty over fact that if my kids see me watch television they will be failures and it will be my fault. My husband explains he doesn’t feel this guilt because he has been doing brain surgery (literally) for ten hours. Ignore him. Write. And compulsively spend money I shouldn’t at Shopbop.com. (In a secret window on computer so family thinks I am working).
8:00 PM. Take 2 magnesium supplements, three passionflower supplements, and one melatonin. Feel smug about the fact that I don’t drink wine to go to bed. Because I am a bitch. And if I have to feel fucking guilty about watching TV I am sure as shit going to feel smug about something else.
8:45 PM. Outlander. Sam Heughan. Thank you, God I am not sure about, for making this TV show.
9:45 PM. Ask husband if he can somehow brush my teeth because I am too tired to lift arms. He says this will be messy. We do this every night. I wonder how people have affairs. Because…waxing?
10:00 PM. Breathe in two three four. Hold two three four. Out two three four.