Saturday, September 3, 2011

This life... so far... THE ESSENTAILS

So, I seriously wrote the best blog the other day.  It was my "come back blog" if you will.  It was an ode to Emerson's 15 month birthday (so it was several weeks ago), but it wasn't really about Emerson, it was a list of things I've learned about myself over the past 15 months.  I wrote it on a flight to somewhere.  I'm sure it was to the East Coast, as that's where I've spent most of my summer and it was a rather lengthy and well thought out blog, which requires several hours of uninterrupted focus which, lets face it, is only available when I'm encapsulated in a vessel with no child, vacuum (yeah I don't really spend that much time with the vacuum), or Internet connection (read: work email).  So I wrote it and then I wanted to spend some time editing it and then my hard drive crashed in an epic sort of way… and now its gone.  Frankly, I hadn't planned to recreate it but… look what I did:

1.  You are the sum of the parts that are formed when you're not paying attention
This parenting thing, man - seriously, its no joke.  I find myself saying, sometimes apologetically, the following words "I'm doing the best I can, there's really no instruction manual for this".  What I'm finding though, is that the most important aspect of parenting is not so much your cumulative approach to discipline, or what you allow your child to watch on TV, or whether you breastfeed for x number of month/years or whether or not you let your child "cry it out" or "co-sleep".  Its what you do on a lazy Saturday morning.  Its how you shape your family dinners.  Its bed time stories, lullabies and goodnight kisses. Its going for a walk around the block when you don't have the energy for the orchestrated play date (I'm so bad at play dates) .  Where am I going with this?  I have come to realize I can analyze and second guess those big picture parenting decisions and read all of the books that I want to, but where I am really driving home my hopes and expectations for my daughter and for my family is during the times when I'm not necessarily thinking about it.  It really is the little things, not the big things, that set the tone of this life - that define our value structure.  I'm not saying I have figured this out or that I have answers, in fact, I'm saying that I haven't and that I don't - BUT…. what I do know for a fact is that a 9 a.m. pajama dance party to the Allman Brothers and Van Morrison laced with maple syrup, black coffee, and bare feet is as important, if not more so than how we approach any of these other big picture parenting decisions.  Granted, it can't be all fun all the time - obviously.  Sometimes the little things are the things that you let go, its an argument with your partner or spouse that you pass on because in the scheme of life, it really doesn't matter.  Its making the decision to pass on that extra hour of work even though you really need to put it in.  Sometimes, its the decision to put in for the extra hour for the sake of sanity.  Its declaring, "today is going to be a movie day because I just don't have it in me for anything else".  It's dragging yourself out of bed to volunteer when you all you want to do is stay in pajamas and have breakfast.  The point is, for what its worth, there's truly not much in the life that can't be fixed by banana pancakes, good music, and fresh air.  The point is, this world can be overwhelming and can absolutely bleed you dry and if I can raise a loving human being who is grounded enough to value the simplicity of a Saturday morning, well then… its a small thing, but I'll count it as a win.

2.  Plugging In.
I mentioned volunteering.  Obviously, the week of Emerson's birth is burned into my brain.  One of the things that happened that week was the gulf oil spill and several coincidental subsequent local oil spills in local parks and wild life refuges.  It was a very emotional time for me as you might imagine, and bringing a new human into this world that seemed to be drowning in the residue of assault left me feeling this massive sense of responsibility.  Here I was, in my rocking chair, shielded by lullabies, warm and comfortable with more food and clothing for my healthy child than I knew what to do with.  For the first time in my life I felt the true meaning and frankly the true weight of being "blessed".  That feeling was heavy because it came with the weight of fortune in the face of the people around me who were hungry, cold, sick, suffering.  I felt a sense of obligation that I have never before felt in my life.  It was so overwhelming it was almost paralyzing.  Since then, I have become a regular volunteer at a local food pantry.  Its a very small thing (on my behalf - the pantry itself is a PHENOMENAL resource).  I try to volunteer every other Saturday morning for a few hours.  To be frank, I started volunteering here as a response to this new found sense of obligation.  Since then, the pantry has become a service to me.  The Saturday mornings that I drag myself out of bed and into the shower instead of lazing around and having breakfast with my family are painful… until I get there.  What I have found is that I get as much out of those Saturday mornings behind the line of the pantry as anyone on the other side of the counter.  I am a part of my community.  I am a part of this world.  I am better for it, my perspective changes, my world view is altered, I am grounded.  I am a better person and a better mother when I plug in to my community.  What's crazy is, it has very little to do with having or not having or volunteering and charity - its all about plugging in and experiencing the world around you in the best way that you can.  

3.  Be true to who you are, not who you think you should be
This is probably the most difficult.  It seems like the moment you announce that you are pregnant you become public property.  Suddenly strangers on the street feel perfectly justified in telling you what you should and should not do for the health of yourself and the health of your baby.  There is a never ending stream of spoken and unspoken judgement that doesn't appear to end once the child is born.  Example:  How much weight you gain, whether or not you advocate natural child birth, breast feeding, length of maternity leave, decisions about child care, baby food, discipline, potty training… it. is. un. believable.  I have decided the following: Almost every mother you will ever encounter is doing the absolute best that she can.  Support her.  I made the decisions that I felt were the best for me, my family, and my baby and I feel good about them.  I have to remind myself of that somewhat regularly though, not just for peace of mind, but to keep myself from slipping down the proverbial rabbit hole as it were.  For example, I chose to maintain a job that has me traveling away from home about 50% of the time.  This is can be incredibly difficult for me and for my family BUT - this job also allows me to work from home and keep a flexible schedule.  I also (yeah, I'm going to say it) enjoy travel.  That does not make me a bad mother (I say that more for me than for you).  The truth is, I need a change of scenery sometimes.  I need 4 hours on an airplane to read a book or write.  I need 3 hours in a car to listen to guilty pleasure music, get lost, and take pictures of fields of wild flowers or pretty barns… because this is who I am.  Its tough, because who I am doesn't always jive with what is ideal for my family but I feel like if I chip away at these things, I'm not jiving with my family anyway.  These things are difficult to balance and I'm still figuring it out myself but one thing I do know is that I'm a better mother, wife, and person when I'm being honest with myself… and that's the best I can do.

4.  Love Yourself -
 Sense a little conflict in #3?  Yeah, balance isn't easy or intuitive.  I'm a work in progress and I'm more ok with that now that I ever have been.  There are so many things I wish I was better about - I wish I did more exciting things with Emerson, I feel like we should spend more time going to parks and the pool and the zoo.  I wish I made more time for exercise.  I wish I had more self discipline.  I wish I could stay up later.  I wish I could for once in my freaking life beat Hunter and scrabble… The list… is… long…  The truth is, Emerson and I have fun dancing and walking around the block.  I'm exercising more now than I ever have in my life.  I've made a lot of progress with the self discipline thing and you know what, indulgence is a part of life.  I get up a 5 a.m. so that's something and, well, Hunter has it coming.  Its like the little voice in my head that is always nagging me has been given a megaphone.  I read this great book though called "My Stroke of Insight" which explains that voice in a very physiological way.  It also explains how that voice is controllable and that its presence is component of the left hemisphere of our brains and that we voluntarily let it into our thoughts or make the choice to quiet it.  Since reading this book, I've gotten much better and telling that little voice to stuff it and choosing to focus more on my progress and achievements instead.  Its a daily battle, but its at least its an active battle and not a passive assault.

5.  Frustration -
My hesitation in publishing this the first time was, I don't want to this to read "preachy".  Like I've got it all figured out.  I wish I could communicate how far from the truth that is.  I see, in an abstract way what seems to be workable for my family and what doesn't but implementing it and remembering it every day is another matter entirely.  I find myself more and more frustrated as this journey continues and I'm trying to figure out why.  Is it just because I'm tired?  Is it because its impossible to be all things to all people all the time?  Is it because I don't make enough time for myself?  Is it because I don't make enough time for my family?  Is it because I sleep too much?  Don't eat well enough?  Do we have too many pets (trust me, with 2 dogs and a cat, you think these things!).  Another dynamic is that I spend A LOT of time in my head, working from home tends to make you excessively introspective.  I was bouncing this off of an incredible friend who knows me inside and out earlier tonight and his response was simple.  "Write".  Duh.  This has always been my outlet, my forum, and my connection and without it… well… that's a big void.  So here I am.  I've recycled the lost blog as true to form as I can get it.  A "state of things" if you will.  So I hope this will be a jumping off point.  Winter is just around the corner here in Salt Lake City and a beach combing southerner trying to navigate 3 feet of snow is always good fodder if nothing else.   Thanks for your ear, for your time, and for your support.  That said…

6.  You -
if you're reading this, any sanity that I've found in the past 17 months is attributed in no small part to you… my friends, my family, and even my network of people who I haven't seen in years but have shared kindness, experience, and encouragement.  Its true, it takes a village and in this day in age, its a big, scattered, hodgepodge village, but a village all the same.  Thank you.


Dave Carroll said...

There you go.

Anne said...

I'm not sure working at home makes one more introspective. Maybe the more introspective among us tend to work at home! ;-) Beautiful post, Julie. Would so love to talk over all these things over a glass of wine in the next 3 wks (aaagh!). Going to miss you guys sooo much!

Dianne Glasgow said...

Beautifully written and very heartfelt. I am proud of you. You are wonderful mother, daughter, and friend!

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