Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Batting practice in my head

Warning! Gianormous post ahead.

I had never heard of the May Day Basket tradition but it sounded like a fun way to practice the virtue of charity so we headed out to the craft store to see if we could duplicate some of the lovely examples we ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the other morning. On the way to the craft store, I could feel the thoughts warming up in my head. How many should we make? Who should we make them for?[1] All reasonable questions. Then more questions started popping up. Should we try Alice's Mary cone idea or look for some inexpensive little buckets?[2] What should we put in them?[3] Cookies[4], flowers[5], holy cards[6], homemade magnets[7]? Why are these little squares popping up around me with numbers?

Again, all reasonable questions (except for that last one). But as these "reasonable" questions started coming at me with the force of a fast ball, I could feel my anxiety level rising just a bit. I tried to tell myself. Keep it simple. No big deal! Just a simple little project. I should have known right then to nip this in the bud, but I didn't. We are already here at the store. I have a vague idea of what I want to do, I am sure it will flesh out as soon as something catches my eye. Warm up is over now, let's get down to business.

The widow lady across the street is Catholic, so I can give her a holy card, but I don't know if her daughter and son-in-law who live with her are as well. Should we make a separate one for them?[8] That would be very obvious. Maybe just one for all of them to share. Now we are back to an earlier question. How about cookies?[4] They don't have any dietary restrictions that I know of, but what about the elderly couple next door?[9]

The pitches are coming faster now. I keep swinging, trying to bat them away. Some of them fly right by me.

We don't know them well enough to know what their dietary restrictions might be. I know that she has had some heart problems and he had knee surgery a few years ago. What else do we know about them? They are Protestant, so a Mary card is definitely out. Probably shouldn't put a holy card in at all.[10] What about a spiritual bouquet?[10a] How would they feel about that?[10b] Best to not risk offending, but then...why are we doing this?[11]

By this time I am getting tired of constantly trying to answer the questions only to have more thrown at me. I see the unanswered ones on the ground at my feet and I try to forget about them, but the white is catching the corner of my and drawing my attention away. More and more pile up on the ground as I am able to make convincing arguments less and less. How about some curveballs?

Should we be celebrating May or celebrating Mary?[11a] We are the ones making these baskets and we ARE Catholic so shouldn't we be proud to share our faith with our neighbors?[11b] Oh wait... [12]aren't these supposed to be anonymous gifts? So they won't necessarily know they came from us. Would they be able to figure it out? Should they be able to figure it out?[12a] They know we are Catholics so a holy card would give it away. Do I want to "give us away" so easily? Shouldn't I not want them to figure it out?[12b]

I am losing strength and resolve. What if I just hit every other one? Then the unanswered ones just pile up faster. If they keep this up, I won't have time to reset before the next one. What does that mean? I will only be able to stand here and watch them go by. Paralyzed.

What about the neighbors on the other side? They aren't anywhere near elderly. We have probably talked to them more than anyone else. They aren't Catholic either... back to [10]. We could do cookies[4] for them and flowers[5] for the elderly couple and holy cards[6] for the widow and magnets[7] for everyone. How many cookies[4a], they have a teenage son you know! Real or silk flowers[5a] or what about tissue paper flowers[5b]. Real ones would need water, who knows how long they will be hanging there[5c]. When should we deliver them[13]? Only one family leaves for work in the morning, the other two don't come outside unless they have to. So maybe we should just do it for the elderly people[9]? Or just the Catholic widow to celebrate Our Lady [8]?

At which point one of my daughters said, "What about our cousins?" Oh yeah...family. Shouldn't they come first?

Back to [1].

Paralyzed by choices.

Now, paralyzed by guilt.

So many doors and I can't even take a step.

Mother Mary, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

* * * * * * * * * *

I wrote the above very late last night. I am fine now. Nothing got done and I am OK with that. I managed to have a good night (no panic attacks!) and I woke up this morning able to say to myself... May is a whole month long and we are going to have lots of opportunities to celebrate the Blessed Virgin this month. It doesn't all have to be done today! As far as the May baskets go, they are on the list for next year.

I am not sure why I wanted to share this with you other than to show you what life can be like inside my head and how much this community (the Big Blog World) has helped me. I prefer not to call it an anxiety disorder (even though it is) because, frankly...that just creates more anxiety! But it is more than just "mommy worry" and it can be debilitating. It stems from a form of perfectionism that has been very accurately described as "oughtism". (I mean no disrespect to anyone who suffers from autism or anyone who has a child that struggles with any level of autism. It was a medical professional who coined the term.)

I ought to do a project with the kids. I ought to celebrate this day. I ought to have planned it better. Why didn't I? Maybe it isn't that important to me. Of course it is. Then why didn't I do it better? Maybe I ought to think about it some more. Shouldn't I do this for my kids? Shouldn't I want them to experience their faith? Shouldn't I also be scrubbing my floors? etc....

Welcome to the internal voice in my head that never shuts up! Thanks for looking past it and liking me anyway(I hope). Most importantly... thanks for helping me not to listen to it... most of the time.

Anyway... I should go make some coffee now since I was up very late (decaf though) and figure out what we are going to do this month. Two steps forward, one step back.


  1. Good for you for quieting those thoughts with a rational response and plan. You do so much already--I am inspired reading your blog and what you are doing with your children. Keep it up! And keep up the honesty--that is inspiring too. :)

  2. You are too funny Matilda. And I'm sorry if that offends you. I too suffer from this disorder and I use WAY too much brain space doing what you just described. I know there's a lot of space between doing way too much and nothing at all...I just can't find that place!

  3. Not offended at all! It does take up so much brain space and energy. It can be exhausting, and unfortunately for me, it doesn't go away when I turn off the lights. It can come back to haunt me when I least expect it as it tries to start a vicious cycle of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. I was pleased that I didn't have to deal with more serious side effects last night.

    Your last sentence sums up perfectly what I was trying to say. Sometimes I find that place but yesterday it eluded me. Nothing to do but pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again!

  4. A-men.

    You've inspired a post, my dear.


  5. Oh honey.

    I have so much I want to say (you know me) but can't, at the moment. I have two little girls fighting on the stoop and a little boy due at--ahem--baseball in an hour.

    Anxiety. Action-numbing, courage-killing anxiety. Been there, done that, doubted.

    Just like you.

    Big heart. Big hug. It will all work out.

    PS. You have my address, right? Mail us a basket! :)


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!