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I am not a piece of πŸ’© and neither are you.

Austin Kleon says to write the book you want to read. If I were to write a book in this moment - more that I need, than I want - I would title it, “You Are Not a Piece of πŸ’©.” I need this book because whenever my anxiety gets stronger, this is the mantra it says to me. “You are a piece of shit.” Now, this is untrue in both a literal and figurative fashion.

This morning it was because of, what else, pandemic parenting. My kid has decided that he doesn’t like his preschool Zoom calls. He doesn’t like that his new friends aren’t his old friends. I think there’s something else going on here, but I haven’t gotten it out of him yet.

He woke up late this morning, so we took the Zoom call in his room. All three of us, W, M, and myself. And then at the end of the call W asked, “So what’s the plan?” because he needed to get to work and we needed to transition. But I didn’t have a plan and I hadn’t eaten breakfast. So I said I was going to invite M. to listen to an audiobook while I ate breakfast, and W. pointed out that in the future, I can grab breakfast while he and M. are on the call.

This is when the anxiety spiral started.

He said, “That would be a good time for you to grab breakfast.”

My brain replied, “THINK OF EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG AND YOUR FAULT RIGHT NOW, KIMBERLY! The toilet is broken with a music wire auger sticking out of it. You only put up half the Christmas decorations and the rest are kind of all over the place. Your bedroom is a walk-in floordrobe. You and your child don’t eat right. You already contributed hardly anything to the household and now you don’t even cook and you certainly are not overburdened by parenting responsibilities. YOU ARE, CLEARLY, A PIECE OF SHIT.”

Anyway, I suggested reading, and M. and I watched a video of his teacher reading a book. W. snuck out, and when M. realized W. had gone to work, he cried for probably less than a minute before saying, “Why does the water coming from my face feel like rain falling?” Then we did a bit of clay work, read and got dressed (a huge achievement these days), and then he suggested going downstairs to play Legos.

I was so overwhelmed and so sad. I began to feel like I had right before starting anxiety meds last fall: that each new challenge was a heavy brick laid on top of my already-about-to-break back. I said to myself, “SELF. Let’s break out of this.”

But first I let myself cry.

And then I couldn’t make the anxiety go away, but I could look at my task list and see if there was anything a person could accomplish while her child was playing with Legos. Because if there was, and I did it, that’d be fewer bricks, anyway.

So he played Legos and I scheduled the plumber and the exterminator. Then I went in our basement storage room and got a bin full of juvenilia and empty notebooks and started clearing that out. And in the middle of doing that I talked with him as he threw stuffed cat toys around, and then he told me he was ready to watch TV. I checked the time and it was well past my time when I try to wait until to start TV-watching, so I said yes.

And now I feel like a person who can do some things.

I’ll feel like I’m a piece of shit again. After all, this is the most resonant song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for me:

But maybe I’ll remember to look at my list and see if I can knock something off of it.

Here’s hoping.

Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @kimberlyhirsh