Of Meltdowns and Coping Mechanisms

First: That infuriating moment when you just spent 40 minutes editing a post, only to have WordPress log you out and not save any of your changes. *HEADDESK* Mental note to self: must write and edit posts in Google Docs before putting them into WordPress. Oy vey.

Ever have one of those days when you find yourself at the mercy of a colossal freak out which, much like a totally unforeseen and utterly devastating natural disaster, comes out of nowhere and leaves you stunned and weepy? That was me earlier this week.

I know this is a serious 180 from my usual type of post, so I apologize for being all Debbie Downer here — but all my worries and frustrations pulled a Captain Planet and combined forces to produce a meltdown of Chernobyl-like proportions. Since writing is what keeps me sane and helps me work through whatever it is that’s upsetting me, I’m going to get my catharsis on in this post.

Source: http://www.kdge.com

First off, I’m incredibly homesick. I miss my family, I miss the West, and I miss the laid-back lifestyle that exists out there. There are so many things about DC that I find absolutely exhausting: the breakneck pace of life, the cutthroat competition, the total lack of a sense of community, the exorbitant cost of living…the list goes on.

Life in DC is just plain hard. The infrastructure here was built for the city’s population circa the 1950s, but there are a few million more people living here now than there were 60 years ago. Resources are scarce, and competition is tight. By and large, people here are much more concerned with their own self-advancement than they are with, say, helping other people or doing the right thing.

Simply making a living is difficult here. DC was recently rated as having the highest cost of living in the U.S., which isn’t all that surprising given the obscene amount of money a person has to shell out just to find a place to live that isn’t a crack den. We lucked out — big time — in finding our apartment, and I feel incredibly glad that we live where we do.

However, this is where the big stuff comes in: the high cost of living and intense competition for resources mean that it’s really hard to have a family here. Waiting lists for daycare tend to be in the range of 12-14 months at a minimum, and even once you get your kid into one of the coveted daycare slots, you should expect to pay somewhere between $1500 – $2000 per month. This is the sort of thing that strikes fear into my heart, since I very much want to have kids. Our families both live thousands of miles away, and although they’d love to help out, the lack of proximity means they won’t be able to help out much with child care.

This, friends, is the crux of my freak-out. I want desperately to have a family, but I don’t know how we’re going to afford it. I mean, we can wait until we’ve saved more money and can afford the huge hit to our monthly expenses — but I’m 32, and, well, let’s just say that my dairy products aren’t getting any fresher. Oh, and have I mentioned that my biological clock is going off like Big Ben on steroids? Because it is. The extent to which I get verklempt when I see a baby (even if it’s just on TV) is either comical, or pathetic, or both.

The high cost of living here also means that it’s going to be really hard for me to pursue my dream of making a living as a writer. I’d have to bring in the sort of income granted only to big-time published authors in order for my dream to be viable here, and that scares the bejesus out of me.

Basically, yesterday all these things combined and turned my brain into a swirling mess of freak-out. I wound up in the most epic of downward spirals:

How will we ever afford to have kids? We’re nowhere near our parents, so we can’t rely on them to help out with childcare. How will we ever afford to do anything? Will we always live in a place where there’s no sense of community? What if we turn into all the families I see around DC who are burned out, miserable, and unable to spend much of any time together because both parents have to work long hours in order to make a living? What if I wind up never having time to write? It’s one of the main things that brings me a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness! Omigod, nothing is going to work! We’re going to be destitute and miserable, our children will be unhappy because we’re going to be overworked and unable to spend any quality time with them, I’m never going to be a writer, and everything is going to be a mess!

Cut to a picture of me wrapped up in a comforter, sitting on the couch, and sobbing hysterically.

Having held onto my title as the queen and reigning champion of the ugly cry (made all the worse by the fact that this happened after work, so I wound up with a tremendous case of raccoon eyes thanks to the running mascara), I’m now at a point where I’m coming up with coping mechanisms. I have to figure out a way to feel okay about staying here, since this is where we need to be for now.

At this point, there are a few key things I can focus on: 1) the fact that our living situation is much better after our recent move, 2) the fact that we have a great group of friends here, 3) the fact that there are almost certainly solutions to the quandary about having a family — we just have to be creative about it, and 4) I can have faith that these things often work out well in the end.

First, since moving into our new place, our quality of life has gone up dramatically. While it’s a bit smaller than our old place, it’s both nicer and cheaper (and I get to take the bus instead of dealing with the Metro, which is a huge win). We’re also able to save some dolla dolla bills, which helps facilitate my long-term dreams of having a family and doing more writing.

Source: uncyclopedia.wikia.com

We also have some awesome friends here, and that counts for a lot. DC might not be a naturally friendly place, but we do have friends from grad school, friends of friends, etc., who are fantastic people and who form sort of a family-away-from-family that we feel lucky to have. This group of people is definitely unique to DC, and we wouldn’t have that anywhere else.

Although I’d love nothing more than to have a family and make a living with my writing, for now I’m going to focus on the good: the fact that I get to write here and at Girls Gone Sporty. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to make a living as a writer, but at this point, I’m grateful just to have the opportunity to write.

As for kids, well, I have no idea how that will work out. I know we’ll need to be creative in finding solutions to the issues of cost, childcare, etc. — but I also feel strongly that this is the sort of thing that I just have to hand off to a higher power and hope that the right plan of action will become clearer as time goes on.

Let Go and Let God
Source: Pinterest, obvi.

Although it probably sounds campy, I find that whenever I’m faced with a situation that seems bigger than I can handle on my own, I feel a lot better when I basically hit the forward button in my mental email queue. It looks a little something like this:

To: God/The Universe
From: Lillian
Subject: FWD: Freaking out about having a family in DC. This is way more than I can figure out on my own. Please help!

Whenever I do this, I’m able to have faith that things will work out and that everything will be ok. I’ve seen this phenomenon pan out time and time again in my 32 years, and I trust that it’ll continue.

And because life is cool like this sometimes, yesterday this essay from Tiny Buddha showed up in my email — and ehrmagherd, was the timing ever perfect. It helped drive home some of the key points on all this: namely, that I don’t have to determine, plan for, and rigidly adhere to a strategy for how all this will play out.

I’ve gotten much better recently about letting go of my attempts to control everything, but occasionally my “MUST MAKE THINGS HAPPEN EXACTLY AS PLANNED!” tendencies creep back in. In reality, though, I don’t have to do this — and, furthermore, I can have faith that this process will unfold in ways I never could’ve expected, but in ways that lead to happy, healthy results.

Follow your bliss...
Are you stunned to learn that this also came from Pinterest? Of course you are!

Taking steps, even small ones, in the direction of my dreams, is enough. I can take things one day at a time, and I can keep my mind and heart open to unexpected opportunities, possibilities, and solutions. Knowing what I want is enough, even if I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work out. And that’s okay.

What helps you cope when you find yourself amidst an epic freak-out (and, um, I’m not the only one who has epic freak-outs, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this boat)? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you know what you want, but you’re not sure how to make it happen? This is the sort of thing where peoples’ stories go a long way towards helping others, so I’d love it if you leave a comment and discuss!

15 thoughts on “Of Meltdowns and Coping Mechanisms

  1. Robin April 4, 2013 / 12:25 pm

    awww, I feel for you. I’m a few years ahead of you, and when I decided to have my son at a similar age (I was 34), had already shed the city life for the country, but there are definitely tradeoffs to whatever you decide to do. One thing I said to myself when I was in the same boat is that all these other women figure it out, women who are much less fortunate than I am, what makes me think I can’t? Anyway, not to say it works all the time but eventually I just had my kid. Did the work-mom thing for awhile and it worked until it didn’t, and I’m onto the next chapter of confusion :). You will be just fine…where-ever you are located. Sometimes you don’t know the available options, like what “normal” people do for daycare (as opposed to what the rich and famous do…) until you have to really, really look into them. Hope you are starting to feel better now that it’s all written down.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte April 4, 2013 / 6:17 pm

      Thank you so much, Robin! This really helps. I like your perspective on the matter: if all the women who came before me were able to do this — many of whom were in seriously dire straits — then what makes me think I can’t? Your perspective and encouragement are very, very much appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Amorette April 4, 2013 / 2:20 pm

    For childcare I have several friends from big cities and they have had the same problem with childcare. They ended up looking into “at home moms” that need the extra cash to be able to stay home, which are way cheaper, get more quality care, and also develop a deeper relationship then just a kid to adult ratio. God has a plan you just have to trust him! Best of luck to you and B.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte April 4, 2013 / 6:15 pm

      Thank you so much, Amorette! It’s great to hear that there this has worked well for people, since it really does seem like the most viable option. And thank you for the encouragement — it’s a huge help. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Emma April 4, 2013 / 4:12 pm

    I hope this doesn’t sound depressing and negative, but I really don’t think it’s possible to have it all. At least not here. For us it came down to what is most important to us, and that was to have a baby. Things aren’t ideal but if we waited for the right time we would’ve been waiting forever. We can’t afford any luxuries on one income, it’s lonely having no family nearby and it’s hard, BUT we have our girl and she’s so worth the free time and money that we gave up. That’s not to say I haven’t had many a meltdown and ugly cry and I still don’t want to be here, but I absolutely don’t regret it. Anyway, couldn’t read this and not comment, I totally get it. Much love.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte April 4, 2013 / 6:14 pm

      It doesn’t sound negative or depressing at all — it’s totally the reality of the situation! Besides, like you said, your darling girl is worth everything you gave up. (My Brandon and I talked at length after Easter dinner about how insanely cute she is, BTW.) I’m glad to hear that you don’t regret doing things the way you did; I feel like I keep hearing stories about how someone feels like their kid ruined their life, so I really like hearing that, while it has required sacrifices for you guys, you feel like it was totally worth it. And seriously, we’d be happy to come up there and watch that ludicriously cute daughter of yours while y’all go to dinner, or just to hang out with you guys for adult beverages and grown-up conversation!

      • Emma April 4, 2013 / 7:59 pm

        Kids do ruin your life in terms of sleep and time to yourself! I’m cursing my post-child inability to sleep past 7am since I actually have the opportunity to for a couple of days! Definitely things were easier when it was just the two of us, but I absolutely wouldn’t change anything because otherwise we wouldn’t have her. I can’t really tell you why it’s worth it because a lot of it flat out sucks, but somehow the sum is much much better than the parts. And she is awesome. And hilarious. And cute (thank you!). And sometimes a complete pain in the butt.
        We were saying after Easter that we would like to see more of you guys, so hopefully we can take you up on that soon. Also, the mountains are still beautiful and they miss you too.

  4. Megan April 4, 2013 / 5:57 pm

    I’m a little disappointed that my home only falls into the “ok” circles. But I like it, so that’s something.

    I’m 32 and SINGLE in DC. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m never having kids. Mainly because I have yet to meet an available guy who can function as a normal human being (oh, the times I’ve thought of creating an anonymous dating blog). And I clearly can’t afford it alone. But that’s okay. I figure that worst case, I get to be the cool aunt to my biological family and my created family. And I still get to live my awesome life.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte April 4, 2013 / 6:06 pm

      Girl, I hear you. (I had to laugh at the Metro picture, because I’d say that the better part of Orange Line is totally FUBAR, while huge swaths of the “ok” portion are actually pretty awesome.) Circa 2009, I actually did create an anonymous dating blog — because as you so perfectly said, guys who can function as normal human beings are exceedingly rare in DC. I have no idea why this is such a pervasive problem here, and it’s frustrating to see how many awesome women are struggling to find an equally awesome men. This, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the District’s greatest injustices.

      I do, however, really like your take on your situation. Focusing on loving and enjoying your life as it is now is a huge, HUGE deal. And, like you said, being the cool aunt to your neices and nephews, whether biological or the kids of your friends, is awesome. I have an uncle whom I was especially close to when I was growing up, since he didn’t have kids of his own at that point — and my God, is my life ever richer and happier for it. You’ll play an incredibly important and irreplacable role as the special aunt, and those kids will be lucky to have you!

  5. chasingchels April 4, 2013 / 7:57 pm

    Were we on the same wavelength today? Again? Not surprising in the slightest haha. I was freaking out the other night about money and things we still need to get and things I really want to do but that I’m afraid I won’t get to do if I have to spend money in other places (it was a good one, let me tell you), and Joe was just like, “Hey crazy lady, calm yourself down. We take it one week at a time and that’s it. No worrying about what may or may not happen allowed.” I tried to say that I couldn’t help it, and he said, “I know…but we need to work on this because you’re going to drive us both crazy if you keep it up.” I wish I knew how to help, but the most I can offer is keep talking and being honest with yourself and the people you love/trust…always makes me feel better to know I’m not alone/someone knows how I feel

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte April 5, 2013 / 9:33 am

      Right?! I think we had a blogger Vulcan mind meld at some point. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so, so glad to know I’m not the only one who does this! I completely understand your worries about moolah and buying everything you need for the new place, too. Having been around that track before, I can confirm that Joe is right: you’ll take it one week at a time, gradually get the stuff you need, and everything will be fine. โค

  6. quartercenturysouthernliving April 5, 2013 / 1:09 am

    Please don’t think I am weird, but I wish we could go to a coffee shop and I could give you a hug. I say this because I have so been there and have moments where I feel that way a lot. I love the quote ‘Sometimes life has a better idea’ from ‘Marley and Me.’ It encourages me to let go and let God and life ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte April 5, 2013 / 9:31 am

      I don’t think you’re weird at all — to the contrary, I greatly appreciate the mental hug! And I love the Marley & Me quote, too. I’m going to have to add that to my arsenal of “things are going to work out” quotes, because it’s totally true. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Meredith April 6, 2013 / 10:43 am

    I know how you feel about being homesick and I’m thinking of you! I also have epic freak-outs, I think we all do. I tend to put everything on paper when this happens to me- i write down what I’m thinking, write down my vision of what I want, and go from there. I think when it’s all running through your head all at once it makes it even more stressful and I freak-out more and more. I hope your weekend is relaxing and stress free!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte April 6, 2013 / 10:52 am

      Oh, that’s an awesome idea — writing down what I’m thinking and what I want would be a huge help. Good call! ๐Ÿ™‚

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