paul nicholson

Wherein I explain (but do not excuse) my actions

In Christy, Family, Friends, Me, Pictures on September 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm

(Note that this is a long, cathartic, touchy-feely post about me. And my friends. And family. If you’re looking for hockey stories or insight into social media marketing this isn’t the post for you)

I feel like I’ve been a bit of a jerk lately. I know don’t exactly have a reputation as being cuddly. Most of my life I’ve heard the criticism that I’m too sarcastic, too quick to voice my opinion of others and their work, and too casual with my communication of said sarcasm and criticism. But lately I find myself regretting more and more that has been coming out of my mouth or fired off on Facebook/Twitter, etc.

I suppose for those that aren’t up to speed, I should backup provide a bit of a preface before I proceed.

(continued after the break)



My wife, Christy and I are pregnant with our second child. Our son Ian is 17 months old and doing great.  About 3 weeks ago Christy started having a few symptoms that the doctor decided were best checked out with an unscheduled visit. 1 surgery, 5 days in the hospital (in two sessions), and 3 weeks later Christy is doing fine, as is the baby boy, but she is on strict bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy – approx 4.5 months if it goes full term. That has left me as essentially a single parent in terms of work load, etc. Christy has been incredibly supportive emotionally and verbally, but the work is still there to do.

To say this has been challenging would be an understatement.

Now, it is also worth mentioning before I go on that we’ve had no shortage of assistance offered and even provided by friends and family. Both my family and Christy’s live in the area and they have frequently assist in vital ways (Christy’s mom is retired and comes over 8-5 every MWF, my parents frequently run errands for us). Many of Christy’s friends have come over and brought food and visited with Christy or watched Ian for a while to give me a chance to catch up on laundry, etc. My employer has been amazingly accommodating as well. Thanks to the flexibility of my position I’ve been able to take what is normally a 15-20% travel job and cut it down to zero. I’m also working from home 90% of the time, and able to take off ‘long lunches’ to take Christy to weekly doctor appointments when needed and ‘flex time’ that work into the evening. All of these things have been a huge help. But even this can be a mixed blessing when it comes to our mental state. Christy and I are both introverts of a sort – meaning that we ‘recharge’ best with time spent alone – something neither of us is getting very much of. Even from each other, much less all the family/friends visiting. Of course, take away the visits and we very quickly get stir crazy and lonely in the house by ourselves. Just one of our many conundrums.

But overall I’ve really been surprised that this hasn’t been such a horrible experience for me. Sure, the first few days (while we were bouncing in and out of the hospital and getting no sleep and were not sure if we would lose the baby) were complete hell. I broke down and frequently cried every time I was alone for a couple of days there. But now that we’ve settled into a routine it really isn’t bad. I’m spending a tremendous time with my two favorite people in the world and any given moment, any given request really isn’t a burden. I’m able to stay positive in the moment.

But I’ve started to realize that it is really wearing on me. My first indications are that I have no idea ‘how’ I am. You know, when some one asks “how are you?” – I have no idea. I just sort of stare blankly back at them as if to say “I don’t understand the question”. My second indication is that I’m being a jerk. More than usual.

It might be worth explaining that both of these things are already something I have to work at. I’m not going to go into the whole story now, but sufficed to say many years of therapy and a whole lot of good, patient friends have helped me recover a sense of self-awareness and sensitivity that were not natural to me. I’ve had to learn how to identify myself in the mess of facades I used to throw up for everyone else to see when I was growing up. I’ve had to learn coping skills that help me vent my personal frustrations in helpful ways rather than lashing out with critical barbs at friends and loved ones. Sure these are all things most people have to do when they grow up. Maybe I’m no worse than others. But for me these are things I have to work at very diligently. It takes conscious effort to maintain basic life skills that (I can only assume) come naturally to others. But I’m usually pretty good at it these days.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much extra energy or time to put into those efforts. I am awoken every morning when my son wakes up. Immediately get into gear and get him changed, fed, dressed. Feed Christy. Hand off the household duties to whoever is on deck to help. Then head to work. My day job I mean. Throughout the day my “breaks” from work are to come upstairs and check on the family. Make sure everyone is doing ok and answer questions for whoever is helping run the house that day (Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the questions to assumptions. More on that later). As soon as I’m off work, I have to relieve my assistant and take back over. Make dinner for everyone, keep my son’s curiosity and energy semi-contained. Try to get some amount of time with my family. Then put my son in bed. Usually then do the dishes and clean up the daily chaos. Try to get in some time with my wife. Then go back to work for an hour or three. Finally around 1:00am I crawl into bed and sleep. (note this blog is being posted and edited well after 1:00am)

I do try to take breaks. To do some of those things my therapist calls “self care” to keep myself sane. I’ll make time to play a few minutes of a video game. Read up on hockey news. Take, edit, and post photos. But all of it is crammed into the small amount of time in between running from need-to-need in the rest of the house. I know that every minute I spend away from one of those chores is just getting me further and further behind, and having to schedule and be that thoughtful about the activities makes them feel like just another chore themselves.

Now, I’ll make yet another aside here to cover what I know some of you are thinking: why doesn’t he get more help around the house. Let someone else do the dishes, the laundry, etc. I do. Some. Both grandmothers come will occasionally do a load of dishes or fold laundry when they come over. Unfortunately I discovered very early on in this ‘adventure’ that I was rapidly losing any sense of identity, pride, or adult-hood that I had if I handed my house over to someone else. Again: maybe that’s nuts, but it’s me. It’s great to have the help, but I found myself very frustrated when everything in the kitchen started moving around on me. Things were washed differently and put away in the wrong place. The food in the cabinets and refrigerator was not ‘mine’ – it was stuff that I would never buy that someone else (very graciously) bought for me. People rearranged our laundry into ways that made sense to them but weren’t how Christy and I did things. These are all OK in small doses, but I realized that I could not hand my home over to one person, not to mention a varied group of other people, each with their own systems and ideas – none of which were the one’s Christy and I had been running our house by. Fortunately I’ve been able to slowly let go of a few of these things and the grandmothers in particular have been great about being patient and understanding with my very specific, nit-picky requests (you should see the grocery lists complete with brands and sizes that I give to my mom). So that is getting better. Improving.

But all of this still leaves me with so little time. And so much on my mind. Which leaves room for little else. In particular I mourn not being able to spend more time on my main creative outlets. Cooking and photography.

I rarely get to cook much anymore and when I do, I don’t have the time to allow myself to be creative (side note: not to mention that my pregnant wife’s stomach is not nearly as willing to indulge my culinary experiments). I have a box of Thai coconut curry broth that I’ve been dying to try something with. But every time I look at it in the pantry I just think “I’m not even sure where to start, I sure as heck don’t know where it’s going” and put it back on the shelf. These days a really good cooking session involves making my own, well established recipe (but tasty) for hashbrowns along with following the instructions on the box for making waffles. Even then every other waffle comes out burned because I’m trying to multitask too much. At least I have the pleasure of knowing that Christy enjoys the cooking I do get to tackle and requests some of my recipes specifically. That at least reminds me that someone thinks I’m still good at what I’m doing.

As for the photography… I’ve always been a photo hound, but ever since my parents gave me a D90 last Christmas I’ve really gone for it. I’m finally using gear (especially the 50mm 1.8f lens) that allows me to at least get close to capturing the images I see in my mind. m really proud of some of the shots I’ve been able to pull off. In particular I’ve really loved shooting Christy and my son. But right now Christy just tolerates my pointing the camera her way to document this time for our family, but she’s not really in a position to be my primary artistic subject at the moment. If I had all the time in the world and the money to go with it, I’d be buying more gear to do work with them and others. And there’s the real secret: I’d love to do work for other people. I’d love for someone else to like my work enough to request that I shoot for them. Even for free. Only once before has that happened (a paying gig actually) and that was before I had my new camera. The results were decent, but rushed and nothing like what I know I was capable of and nothing at all like what I could do now. Recently I even looked in to taking a photography course in the area. Ha. Who am I kidding that I could work that into my schedule. For now, I just get to shoot what I happen to find in life around me – which is still quite a lot.

So…

all that to say…

I’m sorry.

Sorry to my coworkers, and most importantly, my friends who I have hurt with my thoughtless jabs or wise cracks. Many of you I consider dear friends – then I get too ‘comfortable’ and feel like I can make a sarcastic jokes at/with. But when I think about it, 1) we aren’t as close as I think because I don’t have time to invest in many friendships right now and 2) what on earth makes me think it’s OK to make hurtful comments only to the friends I care about. Yeah… that’s how my mind works when it’s fried.

And I am fried right now. I don’t feel like it from moment to moment. And I may tell you everything is fine. But I’m just gonna be running on fumes for a while.

This isn’t an excuse, just an explanation. And apology. And request that you provide me a little grace and don’t judge me as harshly as I know I sometimes judge you. I love you all and despite the messages that dominate my verbal jabs, snarky Twitter replies, whiny Facebook posts, and sarcastic blog comments: I never mean to say anything to belittle you or take away from the value of who you are or what you do. I never mean to. But I know sometimes I do. Thank you for being my friends in spite of that fact.

I will leave you with a slideshow of some of my Flickr photos. I really am rather proud of them.