Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mama tried to raise me better

Whenever my mother wanted to hurt me, she would tell me I was selfish. In fact, not too long after she died someone close to her wanted to hurt me, and they said “your mother always used to say how selfish you were.” Ouch. Without getting into all of the reasons why someone might want to hurt another person who is grieving, let me just say: it stung.


It has always stung.


Because it is true.


We are born selfish, after all- I look at baby Luca and I see this so clearly. He knows only his own needs and does not hesitate to let us know, and loudly, when they are not being met. He is too young for sympathy (or its older and wiser brother empathy) and he doesn’t care if I am tired or trying to pee because when he needs me, HE NEEDS ME. It doesn’t occur to him to care about my needs because he is a baby and he is not yet wired to care. It’s only later, when our basic needs have been met and we know we are cared for that we can start to take the blinders off and look beyond our immediate selves.


I have been watching empathy start to develop in the older kids, especially in my oldest, a sensitive boy who often gets stuck in the middle of wanting to beat the crap out of his sisters and feeling tremendously guilty for even thinking of doing so. While I have no doubt that someday he will make a life out of serving others, now often I find him choosing instead to swing. It’s a process.


And I see the struggle in us, Nick and I, two people who are STILL trying to make peace with the fact that we now come last in a long list of people whose incessant needs must always be met.


When I was pregnant for the first time, I felt many things, but mixed up in there was RELIEF. This was it, the end of me and only me. No longer would it matter what I looked like, what my house looked like, how successful my career was or what I weighed or what pants size I was wearing or whether or not people liked me or I remembered to pluck my chin hairs because… BABY! I didn’t know at all what motherhood looked like but I had read all of the books and seen all of the Hallmark commercials and I knew that once that baby came out I was going to be so consumed with love and maternal-ness that there wouldn’t be any room anymore for self-doubt or self-love or selfishness or even SELF.


And seeing as I was pretty damn sick of worrying about myself all of the time, I was so ready.


Except it didn’t happen like that. Jack came out and OH GOD THE LOVE but still, right behind that, was me. I still found the time in between diaper changes and nursing sessions to worry about how big my butt had gotten, and whether or not they would still like me at my job once my maternity leave was over. I worried that my friends wouldn’t like me anymore because I always had to say no to hanging out and I worried that my baby wouldn’t like me anymore the few times I actually said yes and did hang out. Of course, incessantly and overwhelmingly, I worried about my baby. Yet somehow, I also still worried about me.


This was disconcerting, to say the least; because I was sure it meant I was doing it all wrong.


So we had another.


Now there were two under two. Surely NOW I would be so consumed with mothering that I would lose myself in the process. And oh yes, life got crazy. There were two cribs and two sizes of diapers and two babies crying in the middle of the night. There were firsts with the first and new firsts with the second and dietary restrictions and surgeries and it was really, really hard. There was marriage strain and yelling but when I’m honest, most of what I yelled was “what about ME??” because again, my pesky selfishness didn’t go away. There was Jack, and there was Maria, and my heart was swollen to bursting with how much they mattered, but I was still there too. And I still worried about my butt and my job and my friends and the fact that I was yelling at my husband all of the time and what if he didn’t love me anymore and holy crap what did we do.


And so we had another.


And for good measure, one more.


And now today there are four separate entities that somehow happen to each simultaneously have the entirety of my heart. And miraculously there is still a husband, and then there is the love I feel for each one of the five’s relationship with the others, so I am not a mathematician but I’m pretty sure that means that there are like a quintillion things that I am worried about before I am even allowed to entertain the idea of worrying about myself.


Confession: I still worry about myself.



Most nights I have this ritual after everyone goes to bed and the house FINALLY falls quiet where I go around and do all of the stupid little shit like straighten the pillows and pick up the toys and wipe away the fingerprints from the glass and the whole time, as I am moving around the house like a zombie because I should have gone to bed myself two hours ago, I am saying in my head “wine TV couch wine TV couch” like it’s a mantra. I am telling myself if I just do EVERYTHING, if I just make sure everything is safely in its place, then I have earned an hour of TV and a glass of wine and the right to plant my butt on the couch. 


As if, at the end of a long day, this is still a thing that must be earned. 


As if keeping four little people alive wasn’t an accomplishment. 


As if staying married for ten years wasn’t an accomplishment. 


As if paying the mortgage wasn’t an accomplishment. 


As if none of it even counts until I have lined up the shoes and wiped off the cooktop and gotten the coffee ready for tomorrow.  


Confession: I love that hour.


I love my husband, and holy crap do I love my kids, but I still love that hour. Like, a lot. A LOT. Sometimes I even let it stretch out into two hours. Sometimes I even let it stretch into two glasses or a bowl of ice cream or BOTH.


And sometimes I turn off the TV and I do nothing but breathe in the silence.


And, yes, sometimes I feel guilty for this. There are so many things I could be doing, things that would better serve my family. I could fold laundry or dust or learn how to bake. I could choose sleep and maybe not wake up in the morning a sleep deprived monster. I could sacrifice myself and my hour and I could choose them. But I don’t.


Because you know what?


 I AM SELFISH.  

 

And when I don’t take that hour or anything else for myself, when I blink and entire weekends have gone by and I didn’t even shower and there is baby puke crusted to my shirt but the laundry is done and everyone is fed and at least I am accomplished and whole, THAT is when I look around at my family and I know that they appreciate that I have sacrificed myself and my time in order to serve them.


HAHAHAAA.


Just Kidding.


Cause that’s the thing, isn’t it? NO. ONE. CARES. There is no medal ceremony for the martyr moms who don’t find the time to take care of themselves. I get no crown. Trust me when I say that no one will be impressed when you drag yourself out of bed the morning after giving birth on your bathroom floor and start the laundry. Some might even say you’re being stubborn and ridiculous, and you know what? 


THEY WOULD BE RIGHT.


I know all too well that time moves dangerously fast and these babies will soon not even BE babies anymore and there will not be a perpetual ring at baby height of greasy fingerprints around my house to ritually wipe up night after night after night. I know someday (if I do a halfway decent job AND we are extraordinarily lucky) these babies will grow into functional adults and then I will be left lonely on my couch with a glass of wine and the remote.


I know that if I don’t take a little time for myself now I will surely inherit a mess then.


I teach yoga and I talk about self-care. I hear myself saying to my kids as they struggle to learn to sympathize and empathize and feel all the feelings and still survive “if you don’t love yourself, you can’t really love anyone else.”


And I think YES.


THIS.


THIS IS WHY I GET MY HOUR.


Again, I am no mathematician, but 23 out of 24 ain’t bad.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Beach Girl

On our first morning of our first family vacation in three years, I woke up almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of finally being able to show Gabby the majesty of the ocean for the first time. A few hours later after we piled ourselves and all of our beach equipment into the car, we pulled into the beach parking lot and started to unload. As with most things in the Cape, the parking lot sat atop a dune and we could look down onto the beach and the ocean from where we parked. Barely able to contain myself, I turned around to lift Gabby up and show her the view of the ocean- and found her instead happily playing in a parking lot puddle, a remnant of the previous day’s rain storms. Already in her bathing suit, she was jumping and splashing away in that (admittedly impressive) puddle, happy as a clam (beach metaphor fully intended).

Me: “Gabby! Let’s go see the ocean!”

Gabby: “Noooooo!”

Me: “But Gabby, it’s the ocean! You’ve never seen it! It’s beautiful!”

Gabby, exasperated: “MOMMY. I AM IN THE PUDDLE RIGHT NOW. I DON'T HAVE TIME TO SEE THE OCEAN.”



I admitted defeat. If you know Gabby, you know there is no "showing this girl the ocean". And after I mourned the loss of my Instagram-perfect photo opportunity of a three year old's first glimpse of something, we made our way clumsily down that dune to the sea shore and took 45 minutes to set up tents and chairs and slather on SPF 8000, set out blankets and towels and beach toys and snacks and diapers and juice boxes and books and sunglasses and settled into our approximately ten minute window of actual ocean-side time that we would have before the baby started wailing and demanded that we return to the beach house for naps and our evening vacation routine of having never ending conversations with the kids about all of the places they have sand stuck.
Making the most of my ten minutes, I sent Nick and the kids down to the water and laid under our beach umbrella feigning relaxation while trying to nurse and keep my baby out of the sun and the sand out of his mouth and my boob out of other people’s vacation photos. The beach was crowded and I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation that the group of young 20-somethings next to us were having in that the-entire-world-is-my-oyster (beach metaphor #2) way that only the young can have. They were discussing summer jobs and life choices and one girl was explaining how she is nannying  part time for a family for the summer, watching the two children while the parents work.
Beach Girl: “They pay me well but it’s hard work. I am so tired when I get home.”
Beach Girl’s Friend: “What do you have to DO?”
Beach Girl: “I have to make the kids food, and feed them, and clean up. Sometimes I have to pick up the house. And I take them to the park and to their classes and activities and I even took them to the doctor once.”
Beach Girl’s Friend: “Wow. It’s like you are their Mom.”
Beach Girl: “I know, right?  It’s like somewhere along the way I became a mother of two. It’s exhausting." (takes a long slug of her beer) "I think I might ask for a raise.”
At this I can’t help but snort, and Luca looks up from nursing, and I flash the entirety of Cape Cod proper. 
I looked over. Beach Girl was sitting there on the beach in a very small bikini with a flat stomach and no stretch marks. She had no children in sight and SHE WAS DRINKING A BEER AT 11:00 IN THE MORNING. She had friends around her who were also available to lounge on the beach and she apparently had the expendable funds to pay for a beautiful designer beach bag and she had no wrinkles or grey hairs and she looked RELAXED, and how could she not? Her entire life was open in front of her and she could spend it having long, lazy conversations in the sunlight about what she wanted to do with it as if what she wanted was all that mattered.
Yeah, she was clearly NOT the mother of anyone.   
And for a second, I was jealous of her. Beach Girl and her dreams and her morning beers reminded me  how there is this whole ocean of life and yet, like Gabby, I often can't even see it for my own puddle. And I can’t spend a lot of time looking for it or at it or worrying about it because whatever is sitting two feet in front of my face at that moment demands all the available free space I have in my brain so that I can feed it or cook it or clean it or teach it or wipe its butt, and more importantly so that I know which one of these things is the thing that actually needs to be done and I don't screw it up. 
Where I too once spent my lazy mornings ruminating on all my possible futures, I now spend them running in these little mom-shaped circles all day, maddeningly doing and undoing these often menial daily tasks and having the same conversations and adjusting my expectations down to the point where surviving is an admirable goal. There are days where I don’t even lift my gaze from this work and I need to remind myself to take a breath, AND I DON'T HAVE TIME TO SEE THE OCEAN RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I AM IN THE PUDDLE, MOMMY. 
But my ten minutes were almost up and we had a dune to climb back up so I tucked my boob back in and shook some of the sand out of my spaces and looked down the beach to find Gabby, who had of course traded her puddle for all of the majesty of the ocean and was gleefully playing that classic game of trying to outrun the waves, squealing with delight EVEN WHEN SHE FAILED. 

When our ten minutes were up and after we packed and I caught my breath from carrying 25 pounds of baby back up that dune, the family piled back into the car I took a little detour, pausing to splash my own way through that (admittedly impressive) puddle. 

And it was awesome. 



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Adventures in grief: an update

It's been eight and a half months since my mom died. That's almost long enough for a whole pregnancy, which is of course how I tend to measure things, and just like growing a new person losing one has its stages. In the beginning, I was numb, sheltered by the cushion of shock and pregnancy. I think when Luca was born a month later and I saw him for the first time was when the first wave of true, devastating sadness hit me: my mother would never know him.

As the shiny newness of my grief rubbed off, things came in waves after that, the sleepless nights of a newborn and that constant post partum feeling of teetering on the precipice of sanity mixed up dangerously with the realization that she was gone. Here is where people took care of me, bringing me food and drink and companionship and watching me closely for signs of falling off of the cliff, and that lent itself to the amazing realization that it was entirely possible to feel intense sadness at the same time as feeling like I was blessed and even, lucky. 

Later as things began to settle, both in terms of the baby and the sadness, and people started to trust that I was maybe going to make it, I found myself needing to process things. Writing and yoga were/are among the better coping mechanisms I tend to employ, and excessive drinking and eating and dramatically falling apart are probably among the less desirable, both for me and for whoever is unlucky enough to witness them. This is also where the true character of some people comes out, and some of the people I thought were my allies or my support system turned on me, unleashing their judgements of my grief in torrents that were so detailed and intimate that it was quite obvious that they had barely been able to hold them back this long. This being my first real experience with tragedy, it came as no surprise to me that I didn't necessarily handle it with enough grace to make everyone happy, yet being judged stings an already vulnerable person arguably more than someone who is strong, and these months were lonely at times. This is when true family (in blood and in friendship) comes in, and there but for the grace of them go I still. 


Which brings us to now, as life picks up speed in that way that it does and we move in a blurry flash of winter into spring to almost-summer and suddenly it's steamy outside and we spend the good evenings gathered around a backyard fire pit. Now my constant struggle is finding a balance between moving on and getting stuck. There are moments when I stay quiet, afraid that I have grossly and tackily overdone this talking about loss thing, and there are other moments where I let go and open my mouth and it all flows out, frightening even myself in its intensity. 

There are weeks now that go by where I am okay, working and making dinners and making beds and wiping butts and even basking in the glow of something a lot like contentment, and then all of the sudden I fall back into it and drink too much and cry and cry and wake up the next morning filled with a hangover's frustration that any progress I thought I was making wasn't actually real. 

Then, even worse than that, there are the nights where I can't sleep and I lie in bed going round and round it all in my head, looking for the logic or even just the FAITH that is left behind in these broken pieces. 

I have also reached the point in my grief where I am now convinced that inevitably, everyone will leave me, and I spend my time asking those closest to me to promise that they will always love me, NO MATTER WHAT, in an especially attractive form of clingy-ness that is no doubt making them reevaluate being on my short list in the first place. My need for stability is incessant and greedy, as I grow terrified of change and fight off panic attacks when Wegmans rearranges their shelves or someone I know gets a new haircut and I have to adjust my new fragile reality. 

I will now often cry in random places, and break into smile in others, feeling her presence. 

Finally, in an especially cliche twist, I am desperately obsessed with mortality and living this goddam life to its fullest and find myself suddenly, overwhelmingly convinced that YES, there is something on the other side, and YES, I know sometimes that she is still there, from feathers to dreams to smelling her perfume and everything in between. 

So, where does that leave me? If you were a judging sort of person (and God help you if you are), you would probably think I am stumbling awkwardly, messily through this even now, and you know what? YOU WOULD BE RIGHT. I'll take full ownership of that and every other mistake I have made here along the way, before I lost my mom and especially after (and there have been LOTS). But I will also politely suggest again, just for the sake of argument, that life is (so very) short, and I am human and (so very) flawed, and while there may be some destination months or years off of me being healthy and healed and okay, for now it's about the journey.  

And, long enough for a pregnancy later, this journey is really still only beginning.   


I wish I looked this good when I fell backwards. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sisyphus in Sweatpants

In the beginning of every yoga class that I teach, I invite everyone to find a comfortable position where they can sit for a few minutes and concentrate on their breath. And as we all settle down into the moment I often wax impromptu about things that sound super philosophical and yogic in my head but probably sound a lot like "blah blah belly breath blah yoga blah some shit about a chakra and what the hell is a chakra anyway blah" to everyone else. What I have been finding myself saying lately goes something a lot like this: "well, guys, the warm weather is finally here and it looks like it might stay and isn't that amazing? And if you are anything like me you are probably very busy in your regular lives doing all of the fresh warm weather things and all of the chores that go along with them and all of the chores you had to do before even when it wasn't warm and your full time job and your part time job and your volunteer work and your civic duty and your personal grooming and your child rearing and your wifely duties and ..." and then I fall over and curl up in the fetal position and sob with the weight of it all because SOMETIMES, IT'S JUST TOO MUCH.  

Sometimes, especially like the last few weeks before school ends. 

Like NOW. 


It didn’t happen all at once. It has been a gradual decline from our idealistic beginning last September  of “This is the year we organize, accomplish, and clean all of the things!” to the October reality of “well, right after I birth this here baby on the bathroom floor” to the January maternity-leave-is-over reality of “well maybe we can catch up on the weekends” to the present reality of “HOLY SHIT.” I am starting to wonder if it is just a law of physics that as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer our lives inevitably expand to fill the space. 

When I was growing up there were all these dogs on my street and every warm evening one would start howling and then it was like some dog-signal went out and all of the dogs in the neighborhood were howling at once and it was loud and weird and a little funny and a little scary all at the same time. I am reminded of that when we pull in the driveway these days after school, as my kids let out squeals and warrior whoops and try to jump out of the still moving vehicle, and the other kids in the neighborhood run alongside the car, all of them seemingly drawn by some deep instinctive need to discard coats and shoes and backpacks and lunch boxes and whoop and roll around in the mud, chasing each other with weapons fashioned out of the sticks of their popsicles and their half-done homework. 

There are perks to this, of course, after I got used to just how dirty little kid feet can get in the backyard and how very resistant they would be to washing them. My house stays a little cleaner on the inside because everyone is outside, and occasionally when the baby stops crying for more than two seconds we can even sit on the rocker on the front porch and watch the older kids run in endless circles and I would burn so many calories vicariously through them that it is almost like doing actual exercise. 


...and then suddenly it is baseball time because our lives are ONE LONG LITTLE LEAGUE GAME that will apparently go on and on every day of every week for the rest of eternity, and at any given moment one child is playing baseball and one husband is coaching baseball I am left responsible for keeping the three others alive and fed. The only baseball games I can make it to are conveniently situated next to a waterfall that my three year old desperately wants to “investigate” by throwing herself down head first, which means IF I am in attendance 95% of my mom-energy is focused on keeping my daughter alive while the other 5% is trying (in vain) to keep my always-nursing baby from flashing my exposed boob to the entire ballpark, and I only realize my baseball-playing child has done something good and baseball-y when the other parents who know what the f is going on start cheering his or her name. And if I am NOT in attendance, which I (shamefully) usually am not, I am laden with the kind of self-inflicted-mom -guilt that could solve all of the modern world's ills if we could only figure out how to harness its power for good instead of evil.

And now after baseball we make a futile effort to meet up at the house to track that red baseball dirt around and shove some inedible thing made out of red dye and nitrates that I have deemed “dinner” into our mouths as fast as humanly possible while being soothed by the melodic crooning of a crying baby who is not excited about making the transition into his crib. After dinner I am only able to convince my kids to shower by promising them chocolate and Legos and ponies and Jedi knightings and all sorts of other things I have no actual intention of delivering, which they figured out eons ago so their sheets (what kind of fool buys white sheets) are also covered in trademark red baseball dirt.

Shorty after "dinner" and "showers" when everyone falls asleep… HA! Kidding! No one falls asleep EVER. They sneak out of their rooms to get in some last minute Popsicles and sibling-beatings and are selfishly unconcerned with the fact that we live in an old house and I am trying to decompress by watching mindless TV directly under their pounding feet. The next few hours are inevitably a delicate ballet of the telltale shaking of the wine in my glass every time their feet again hit the floor and me trying so hard to pretend I don’t hear it until I end up somehow with four kids on the couch with me, the channel changed to something horribly Disney, and the pressing need for a refill.

Many hours later, when all the well-behaved children in all the normal people's houses have long since been slumbering in their clean white sheets, mine finally and by some miracle succumb to the rest that hours of rolling in baseball dirt demands.  In that brief moment of absolute euphoria at my quiet house THAT IS MINE ALL MINE MINE MINE my body responds like an overstimulated kid in a candy shop, doing some crazy thing that looks a lot like a seizure where it tries all at once to move in 45 different directions to do all of the things I can do now,  simultaneously using up all of my remaining energy and leaving me to drop in place and fall asleep in some very attractive position with my mouth hanging open.

I tell you all of this in a very long, drawn out fashion to explain to you why, in so many ways, I am failing. I have dreams too ya know, things I want to do and ways I want to change the world- I want to throw myself into my career or master all of the challenging arm balances in yoga or write a novel or help people birth their babies or change the mother f-ing world for the better or actually do the things I say I will and instead, I am Sisyphus in sweatpants, dropping in place at the end of a day and lamenting all of the things that I half-assed just to make it through alive.  I am a maternal hamster running on my wheel, making lunches and and washing clothes and toilets and feet and running again and again to the grocery store for popsicles and red dye. I am usually exhausted and I ALWAYS look it. 

And yet there in front of my yoga class, curled up in the fetal position, doing something with whatever chakra is supposed to mimic a Xanax, I know deep in my core that under the anxiety and the red baseball dirt there is a steady current of contentment.  And deep inside of that, quiet sometimes but always there, is the kind of complete joy that were it to shine out of my being all of the time would blind everyone I encountered. 

So yes, I have dreams too. Yes, I want to change the world while balancing on my arms and yes, I want to wake up one day fully rested and without a child attached to my body and not look like I spent the night having a Mack truck repeatedly back over me. But for now, I will roll my metaphoric rock up my metaphoric hill and while sometimes I will loudly and dramatically complain, other times I may just burst with gratitude from the joy of being the one honored enough to have this job. 

Eh, at least it is warm out. 



Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Feathers

Seven or eight years ago, during an especially awful time in my life when I didn't quite feel like an adult but was way too old and had way too many kids to continue acting like a child, I was getting ready for bed after a particularly challenging day. I was sad, scared, and vulnerable (the holy trinity of depression) with the state of my life and while not necessarily a woman of faith at the time, I was out of options. I threw my hands up, asked God/the universe for help, and got into bed. 

A few minutes later as I was reading my book, I noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye and looked up to see a tiny white feather floating lazily down onto my chest. I haven't a clue where that feather came from, or what message it was supposed to convey, but I took it as a sign, and found immeasurable comfort in it.




After someone close to you dies, I think its pretty normal to spend some significant time contemplating the other side- what (if anything) awaits us after we pass and if there is any interaction between that realm and this: these are things that I have had lengthy recent discussions on with people who too have had loss. My mom died unexpectedly and there are things I wanted to say to her after she was gone, loose ends I wanted to wrap up, apologies she deserved and apologies I still needed to hear from her, and probably most importantly: I wanted to know she that she finally found peace.

So when feathers started appearing again in my life, I took special notice. There was the one I found in my car in the first days after she died, and there was the one that floated down on me while I was walking to work. Then they started to get a little bolder- there were the fluorescent blue ones I found in the baby's crib shortly after he was born, and the one I found lodged in Gabby's curls.

Finally, there was the other morning. It was a school day, and as such me and the kids were performing our usual morning dance routine of spilled coffee, shirts on backwards, "Mommy will you help me wiiiiiiiipe," and pouring of boxes of Cheerios on the floor and then grinding them into the carpet with their feet. I was still upstairs stabbing myself repeatedly in the eye with a mascara wand when Maria came running upstairs to tell me frantically that "there was an animal stuck in the heating grate."

Our house is 104 years old this year. In the four years I have lived here, we have accordingly battled insects and vermin of all sorts, and we rarely win. I have woken to bats flying in circles around my head and watched mice, centipedes, slugs and other assorted creatures of my nightmares saunter boldly across the floor, inches from my feet. But this, "an animal in the grate," was a new one even for us. I came downstairs with trepidation and the four of us gathered around the grate and poked what looked like a large mass of long fur with broom handles and shoes and various pieces of cutlery to assess whether or not it was still alive. When it failed to respond to even Gabby's enthusiastic prodding with a butter knife with any measurable sign of life, I was able to work up the courage to reach down and dislodge it from the grate with my bare hand.

Imagine our surprise (and tremendous relief) when what I freed from the grate was not, in fact, a dead animal carcass, but instead was the largest and most beautiful feather I have ever seen in my life.

Happy Mother's Day Mom. I love you too.




Saturday, April 19, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 40

Day 40: April 19th, 2014

Well, friends, we made it. The season of Lent is ending and Easter Sunday is tomorrow. I have successfully sat down in this chair for 40 days (give or take), chronicling the daily effort and effects of living my life with an eye towards the divine. If you've made it through these 40 days with me somehow, I no doubt owe you a drink. We will have to raise our glasses together because you guys, I think it might have worked. 

What does that mean, exactly? I have no idea. I think I thought when my mom died that it was a punctuation mark of sorts, like that marked the end of life as I knew it before and now it was the beginning of a different life, one where I was sadder and looked at life through the dimmer and blurrier lens of loss. I think I thought that to try to live any other way would be insensitive, and worse, inauthentic. But I also think there was a small part of me that knew to try and do that would be like slowly suffocating. So with that and the beginnings of a sneaking suspicion that there was always something miraculous lurking quietly just out of my peripheral vision, I tried to think of a way to force my eyes open again. I thought that if I made myself look for it, if I committed to it and let you hold me to it and talked openly about it and bore witness to it, I might be able to bring it into focus. And I can say without any doubt now that looking for the thankful in my I-can't-believe-I-am-not-in-the-psych-ward life has helped me to truly open my eyes.

And you know what? 

It's beautiful out there. 

There are babies and children and embraces and romance and friends (great friends) and family and neighbors and mentors and the kindnesses of strangers. There are good meals and clinked glasses and hot baths and the nights where you sleep so hard and so deep that you wake up in the exact same position you fell asleep in the night before. There are sweatpants and heels and all of the beautiful things in between, and there is a hot mug of coffee in the morning to center your mind and a hot mug of tea in the afternoon to quiet it. There is yoga and practice and community and music that gives you goosebumps and those moments where you chest splits open and your soul shines out like a ray of light and you cry hot beautiful tears and feel like if there is a God, this is him holding you up. There is a keyboard and a little blog and the people who are amazing enough to read it and tell me their own stories and there are the people who want me to please shut the hell up for once but yet are kind enough to not say it to my face. 

My chair here is in front of a big window and I look out onto my street often as I write, trying to find the right words to explain what I mean (and usually failing). Seven weeks ago, when I first sat down here, it was dark out there and cold and the trees were stripped bare. It was ugly. Tonight, the sun is setting in this ridiculously beautiful rainbow of reds and oranges and golds, the trees have buds and the grass is green and better than all of that: there are children running everywhere laughing. 

You know what that means? 

IT IS NOW LIGHT WHERE IT WAS DARK. 

You see? Its not just little me with my little mid-life crisis and my self-indulgent little experiment and my little life. Maybe I'm just a metaphor and spring is just a metaphor and maybe Easter is just a metaphor or maybe it's the only story but no matter what you celebrate and what you believe, there's the undeniable truth of darkness and light, of loss and rebirth, of falling down and GETTING BACK UP.  It's all of us and it's this great big life and this great big communal world and its every one of you, helping me get back up. 

And maybe yet again it's just little me, sitting here on the 40th night, and saying thank you. 



This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 39


Day 39: April 18th, 2014


Today we celebrate my husband’s birthday. As it happens, adult birthdays in our house have become rather subdued affairs as we transition both to celebrating the kids and also to bemoaning our own aging rather than wanting to shout it from the rooftops. But we will have dinner, his choice, and cake, and singing, gifts, and time together as family; and even if that is all we have, we are happy. We are also approaching ages where we can pretty safely say we  have been in each others lives (Nick and I) for more than half of our lives. We have been married for ten years, known each other for 18, and HOLY CRAP WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?

It was hard for me for a long time to stop thinking of “my family” as my own nuclear family I grew up with and start thinking of it as my own nuclear family I had created here with Nick. We often talk about how we still, undeniably deeply entrenched in our 30s, consider ourselves to often be “playing” at being adults. This stuff is hard that we are doing. It’s hard to have a marriage and jobs and extra side jobs and so many babies and a house and friends and obligations and THIS TOTALLY INSANE LIFE and still find time at the end of the day to come together and exhale and remember that were it not for the two of us, there would be no family.
And I love this guy, and this life that he has indulged me in having, and the stolen moments we have where we catch each other’s eye over the top of the head of a child that is either doing something so cute you could puke or doing something so horrible you could puke and we both just KNOW. We just know that this is where we were meant to be, in this moment. 
And isn’t that what makes up a life, after all (the moments, not the puke)?

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.
To see the following day, click here.