We are watching our parents age. Haven’t they always been the same age? So why are they deteriorating before our eyes now? Why do phone calls include doctor results and stories from forever ago? Of regret? Of routine?
When did I become the mom and for the love of god please tell the children their real mother is coming home soon.
Who owns this house? The big one with the barn and the garden overgrown with weeds and the busted old chicken coupe? Not us, not me, no way.
I’ve been listening to stories through music. They’re called lyrics. Maybe you pay attention to them or maybe, like most people I talk to, you just hum along and think, “what a lovely tune.”
While I will not claim to be magically artistic, there’s a huge chunk of my left brain that gets a little melancholy for the arts; music, poetry, a really good travel book. So when a tune catches my ear, the first thing I do is look up the lyrics. (In the old days we used to look on the tape covers. ON PAPER. Or in the really old days, when yours truly was coming of age, we looked on the back of the VINYL covers. Dear god but we did.)
This nice little diddy is as depressing as an Indy Documentary. I love the tune but oh, did it spark some reflection from somewhere deep within.
I’m reminded of seasons; of change, of constant shifting. I was 12 the first time I asked my mother about letting my childhood best friend go. “Friends are always flowing in and out of your life, hon.” I didn’t like it. Not one bit. And without sounding too Dr. Seusian, I did sit down and write a poem in my journal.
I’ve been melancholy for a very long time.
I’m reminded that I am not the person I was when I was 12, although there are pieces of her inside. She is more like the foundation buried under all these other years of wear and wisdom. But I am also reminded that we can get lost to ourselves. I remember an old boss, years ago, talking about his divorce. “We just lived our lives on this road and one day we turned around and said, ‘Who are you?’” I was 25 and a young professional at the time I heard this. Eleven years can be a long trek and suddenly I woke up and looked in the mirror one day and asked, “Who are you?”
My person will morph over time like those friends my Mom said would float in and out of life. I will be a version of myself, a friend, and then another and another. Over time I will be a variety of people; the business woman, the mother, the self-assured granny, the meek and uncertain college girl, the housewife, the feminist.
We all lose ourselves to time. “Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in.” - Thoreau.
In some ways I am both parts, she who is scared and lost and he who is standing by her side. I am both reaching out for a hand and offering one to myself. Former versions of me are there and future versions are waiting patiently. I am the only one who can find my way.
“Though the truth may vary, this ship will carry our bodies safely to shore.” - Of Monsters and Men.
One of my favorite parts about having children is that sayings you haven’t heard since 1982 become part of daily life again. “You know what? Chicken Butt.” Kids either keep you young or toss you right back in time to create a very large, somewhat over weight ten year old. It’s awesome.
I picture you taunting me as I write this post. “Leslie and Yoga sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage…” Or else you’re just poking your eyes out, “STOP WITH THE YOGA DEAR GOD STOP”
No. You’re not the boss of me.
During this time of transition, we’re all a little wonky. Bat-shit-crazy. Losing our ever loving minds. We’re all bumping in to boxes and searching for things and coming up cussing, “Did you already pack the [insert important item here]?!” HULK SMASH.
It’s like, so totally rad. Not.
I have a tendency to “pile on” as Mr. Flinger says. When things get hard, I make them harder. Deadline at work? Why not try to get four sites done instead of that one big one? Moving and having most of your food in chaos? Why not start a diet and freak out about not losing weight because you’re eating out too often? Worried about paying bills? Why not make a long spreadsheet about how you need to repair the cars before they both die and OMG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE ONE DAY MOTHER OF ALL MERCY.
See? Piling on.
It just so happens that I’ve also decided to love me some Yoga. Yoga makes the piling on go away. Yoga makes the weight, well, in theory, go away. (I have yet to experience this phenomenon even though I’m sore most every day. I’m working really hard not to pile on right now about why my body hates me so much.)
Seriously, someone stop me. I’m about to post pictures.
OH YES I AM.
I’m trying to find balance. To be OK with a touch of chaos. To reflect on the fact that it always gets done, one way or another, it always gets done.
I’m trying to reach inward, not outward, to find strength. To be a woman capable of keeping the family in harmony when harmony is most impossible.
I’m seeking ideals from new foundations, bringing outside, fresh, new perspectives in; finding quotes comforting and challenging, as much as new poses and the rhythm of the Vinyasa in Yoga class are. “Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth.” -Daisaku Ikeda quotes
At the end of the day, I strive to find hope, spring, morning, birth. To focus on the lengthening daylight and the new buds of life. I remind my family that soon, very soon, our lives will become what we always strived for. My daughter reads and talks about first grade. My son asks how to spell words and writes his own two-year-old version. We tackle growth and learning and becoming as one: a family adapting, growing, seeking.
And still, we sit at the dinner table telling very corny knock knock jokes and one-upping each other with “that’s what she said.”
Because some things never change.
(Heh, I said when things get hard.)
The room is hot today. Hotter than usual. I ponder this as my heart races.
Perhaps it is not the room, but my head.
Thoughts pound within the sides of my skull. Anger, frustration, uncertainty. I hear the sound of the room breathing, Pranayama. In. Out. In. Out.
We begin our salutations. I stretch. I try to release. My tummy folds on itself and I judge it. I feel myself tense and I release again. I remind myself it birthed two children that I love dearly and not to hate it for its work.
I breath in again. And out.
We fold in to downward dog. Breathing. The voice from the teacher reminds us to be center. “Nothing Beyond” she says. Nothing Beyond I remind myself. Centered. On this mat. In this room. In this heat. Right now.
I find myself rattling off a todo list and wondering if I’ve heard back from so-and-so. I catch myself.
I envision a mountain. I try, as two of my favorite authors both stated in their path to meditation, to let my thoughts be as clouds to me, the mountain. I try to acknowledge my thoughts but not dwell upon them.
I do another pushup, another stretch, another Vinyasa.
In our final Savasana I feel myself pulled by gravity. I am grounded. I am stable. I am strong and empowered.
I am a little more able to work. To focus. To be.
It is the “being” that I am most working on.
Being nothing beyond.
This is the goal.
It’s warm for January. The buds are unsure. The clock says to wait but the weather debates. I notice this as I walk and breathe deeply inhaling the fresh smell of pine and exhaling exhaustion. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
I think about how connected everything is. There is no circle that does not touch another. The trees and the plants, the small town I live. The people I know all know one another. The business I have touches others in my community and the community in which I do business reaches beyond the pond to even more communities.
There is not a single blade of grass in my life that does not belong to the larger lawn.
It is with this spirit that I walk today. I walk the trails that connect my home in the suburbs to my work downtown. I walk with the music I found through an Internet channel, the same channel heard by friends as far away as Australia. I walk with the shoes I got in Vegas with my friend from Oakland and I walk by the road to my daughter’s new friend from school.
This connection, the circle of circles, expands and contracts, like lungs. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” - - Dahli Lama
It is with this quote that I walked today. With the unusual sun on the usual path in the usual circle in which I live. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
*image courtesy of my long time dear friend Nicole.
My husband regularly tells me I am the most ADD person he knows. I tell him he doesn’t know a lot of people. He tells me he can’t know too many more people because I’m all the people he can handle.
Then he kisses me and slaps my ass in fun and turns on the TV.
Lately I’ve had this urge. I often get “urges” or “a bee in my bonnet” or “any sort of cliche you can think of here that is a nice way of saying totally lost my shit.” Sometimes I crave my favorite city Bellingham. Sometimes I need to fly home to Texas. Sometimes I ache to hike or camp or kayak. But not in the way you think of a normal person missing things she used to do before kids. No, it’s more like a lady with PMS being told chocolate is NOT AN OPTION and then watch the unleashed crazy in her eyes as she sits in front of Ghirardelli.
Lately, I’ve been craving a farm. Now, I am not a farm girl. In fact, I grew up in the suburbs of South Houston where every fifth house was the same and our grass was manicured to perfection with not so much a dog off leash. But as I drive to drop off my son at his daycare, I pass farms of cows and barns and sheep. We talk about the animals and the types of trees. We watch the horses. We say “Moooo” a lot.
My husband, on the other hand, grew up on 5 acres of land with a turquoise barn. He’s talked about that barn and its role in his childhood as he and his brother jumped from the loft in to a pile of hay and spent hours hiding and shooting each other with pretend guns as cops and robbers.
It’s hard to buck the years of habit in your life. It’s nearly impossible to change a city girl in to a country girl, although Ree makes a convincing argument. My husband laughs as I talk about wanting a farm house. A barn. A BARN!
Finally after much discussion we found out it comes down to this: Simplicity. A symbol. That barn? It’s real, but maybe it’s not a barn, per say, but a choice. A lifestyle. A decision.
The sub-urban lifestyle of running to swimming, day care, meetings? It’s not where we thought we’d be in our early thirties. It’s our life, and we love our life, our jobs, our kids, our schedule. We’re happy with extra-curricular activities and working out at the YMCA. We love our friends and our new towels and our fresh couch and granite counter tops. But there’s something missing… something .... space? time? a yard? Or perhaps, a barn.
We want that life, the simple life, of kids running and jumping and going outside. Of teaching chores and life lessons. Of opening our curtains to see grass instead of twelve other houses. Of hearing frogs in the summer and the rain in the winter.
For some reason, I think mine is in a barn.
A turquoise barn.
*Excuse the stream of consciousness here, but I’m going to write and then get started on work. I think I need to put This Stuff Down so I can take it out of my brain and focus on other things that make people happy like CLEAN CODE and NAVIGATIONS THAT WORK and CSS VALIDATION. So, sorry ahead of time for the lack of editing. It’s been a long night. Also, please note: I am not going crazy or super depressed. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I’d like to use a lot of eff words. I know you understand. Thank you.
Tomorrow my daughter turns four years old. This marks, for me, a very important day. It’s the day she turns in to My Favorite Age. It’s the day she is no longer a toddler but a child. It’s the day she becomes human enough to reason with.
Or, at least, that’s what I thought before having children.
The last few months have been hard. The last few weeks have been harder. The last few days have been hell.
There is a huge gaping cavern between where my daughter stands and where I live. Logic. Perspective. Common Sense. These are attributes I’ve spent nearly 33 years cultivating. She’s spent four years defying them.
I know four year old’s shouldn’t be expected to reason. I know they don’t get common sense. I know they don’t understand The Big Picture. But people, they SHOULD understand where the toilet is and how to get there in time to piddle. They SHOULD understand when mommy says to “put on your shoes” she does not mean “bug your brother, then throw a fit at the top of the stairs, pick some lint, get out a few dolls, whine about something, throw another fit, look for the toy you lost 11 months ago and turn on the TV.”
All I want is for her to put on her fucking shoes.
I understand that a four year old won’t get that it’s raining outside and the longer she doddles in the car, Mom gets drenched. I know she doesn’t get that money doesn’t grow on trees and that I have to work if she wants that Pink! Sparkle! Bedroom! All! Of! Her! Own! (good luck with that one, kid) But I do think she can understand that we all do things we don’t want to sometimes and it’s OK to not love EVERY FUCKING MINUTE of my day but that over all life isn’t that bad.
Unless you fall and scrape your knee, that is.
Then HOLY FUCK BATMAN.
I SCRAPED MY KNEE.
:: flail like a fish out of water here and throw yourself on the ground increasing screaming pitch until only dogs in Holland can here you ::
It’s exhausting in a way I can not explain, the training up of this child. The increasing difficulty in which she exists is making trading in this version for a four legged hound that licks his ass sound pretty appealing. It makes taking a 16 month old who craps himself, throws fits and scream in public easy. At least HE is 16 months old, not The Human Age Of Four.
I’ve been reflecting on my own childhood as she nears my age of remembrance. I remember doing fun things like carving pumpkins and having sleep overs. I remember watching, with disgust, as my childhood best friend would throw a fit because she couldn’t get her tights on over her sticky humid-ridden legs before Ballet. I remember thinking my 5 year old friend sure did over-react a lot.
I was five and I Got It.
I think of things the Catholic Priests of my childhood would be proud of. GUILT! It’s ALL MY FAULT! I’m a horrible mother. I work too much. I don’t spend enough time with her. I don’t feel connected with her because I had PPD and couldn’t form that bond with her as an infant.
I pack on so much guilt I contemplate staying home and just Being There For Her.
Then I look around for a fork to shove in to my eye because WHAT THE FUCK.
I must be on crack.
So I go to work and I focus on things like making people happy because SOMETIMES work actually works and people are happy! They don’t throw a fit! My clients? They understand reason, logic and perspective.
I could kiss my computer.
Code makes sense.
Code never ever wets its pants or throws a fit.
(insert nerd “throwing an exception” joke here because HAHA! Bad function! No Variable Defined! Throws exception! HAHAHAAHAHAHA.)
(stop rolling your eyes)
(I’m done now)
So I seek things that make me happy because my daughter Does Not.
And I feel bad about that.
And! The Guilt! Again.
I wonder out loud if I was cut out for this Mom gig. Then I wonder what kind of a God would fuck with me like this because HAHAHAHAAAA (fingers pointing down from heaven) take challenging intelligent child and turn her in to someone that can contribute to society! I DARE YOU.
Then I get struck by lightening.
I guess, here on the eve of her fourth birthday, I can’t help but wonder where I went wrong. If I went wrong. Why I went wrong. And if I can fix it. Or if our relationship will always be this jagged, this hard, this challenging.
I cry a little at that thought. I cry because I want a better relationship with my daughter. I cry because I’m not really sure that I can do it alone. I need her to try, too.
But she’s only four.
Not even four.
Tomorrow, she is four.
I can not believe the years flying by. Please make them stop so I can figure this all out? Because before I know it? She’ll be 14. And I’ll wonder why she stands on the other side of the gaping cavern where logic and time and common sense do not exist.
My only hope is that I can stand there with her. I know she’ll need me.
I know I need her.
We’re in the midst of an amazing time in our country. People are charged. There are heated discussions happening at dinner tables. It’s bringing families closer, marriages to the couch together to watch and discuss and find a future. We’re waiting. We’re poised. It’s going to be a fun and interesting ride.
I have my thoughts and opinions like everyone else. I have my points I desperately want to slam around and I have my reasons to why I feel as I do. But those points sit in draft here because of one simple thing: We, the country, the community, the people, are still prejudice.
It’s sad but it’s true: Someone with a differing opinion than your own can drive you to not consider the points being made. Opening up a website to see a huge “OBAMA!” or “McCAIN!” graphic could repulse you to close the window before reading a single point, word, thought. In this time of division and discussion, we need to have just that: A discussion. And I think you will find we’re not so different after all.
Our skin color, the people we call our lovers, the size of our waist or the size of our bank account are all different and we’ve accepted (or are accepting) these differences. It’s OK. You can still be my friend. We can still watch the sun rise and hope for our kids.
But the letter on your ballot can drive away potential friends and partners and jobs simply because you are forced to choose between two parties. R? D? Or C) Best Candidate.
I’m voting for C and I know you are dying to know so we can all judge each other and point fingers later. And really? As long as you are passionate, as long as you remember why you’re voting at all, in the end? We’ll be ok.
(She writes and nearly reads at 3 years old. Can anyone say 2048? She’s got my vote.)
It’s no secret we’re done having children. In fact, we’re a little gun-shy in the whole “boink-a-boink-a” department because of it. In the words of Mr. Flinger, “I am a potent man!”
Now, it’s not so much a good thing.
However, I have friends who want, crave, try to have children. Who may not get the opportunity. Who undergo treatments, stress, financial burden all to obtain the thing I take for granted on a daily basis: Motherhood.
It’s a little bit astonishing to me how much I don’t appreciate my own gift of birthing to healthy babies. Some days I look at our children in marvel and wonder and think I may explode from the sheer love of having these people in my life. Other days I wonder what-the-hell and when I can get back to me. Me. Not Mom, just Me.
There are people unable to get to the place in life where I’m at right now, sitting here with children needing and wanting me more than anything in the world. Children who squeal with delight when I walk in the door. Children who yell out, “Mommy! I was just missing you A WHOLE BUNCH!”
What kind of a rotten, horrible person am I for not loving every minute of it?
I once asked Mr. Flinger if he thought I had a drinking problem. “No, I think you’re a mom” he replied. He’s right. With every second of joy and love there’s alternating seconds of frustration and irritation. Would I trade any of it? No. I wouldn’t. But I’ve been so vocal about the frustrating parts that I sometimes forget to share all the mushy wonder of my soft, lovely tiny humans that we created.
Some people can’t create. Or need help creating. Or adopt. Or suffer possible serious physical consequences stopping medication to create a home for a child in their body. And here I sit, sputtering, wishing I could take back ever negative thing I’ve said. While it’s real, true, it’s not fair.
It’s never fair.
So what do you say to a friend who can’t get to the place you are? The place you some days wish you weren’t? The place where children are so needy you cling to your sanity with threads and other days you snuggle to their soft breathing as their tiny chest rises and falls beneath your hand. The chest, the heart, the body you grew?
There are some things in my life now that are so familiar, I can recall the smells and sounds as if I’m standing there, ten or twenty years ago. Others are so new and wirey, I can barely choke down the change before time is up and new smells and sounds arrive.
This morning on my jog, I turned the corner to the downhill in front of our street and saw the Cascade Range. It exudes summertime right now with the blue shadows and dusts of snow. It is one of those familiar sights to me while running that make this place home. I’m nearly 19 again running in cross country or gearing up for the season the summer prior staring in earnest at the finish line.
The thing most unfamiliar is the stroller I push and what it carries.
For some reason, the mister and I have taken note, adjusting to the second child has been even more difficult than the first. Even without postpartum depression and all the new-parent anxiety, it still has been a hard change in our marriage and in our family. Our bodies are older. We aren’t as fit. We need sleep more. Our minds are engaged elsewhere.
I’ve joked about why being a teen parent is a good idea and I’m really only kidding. Except that I’m possibly wondering about that alternate reality where we had children a few years earlier, say at 25 instead of 30, and maybe we’re shuffling kids off to school and gymnastics instead of naptime.
The grass, it is always greener, isn’t it?
So this morning on my jog, the one place I feel the most in touch with the me that was Me before I was Mom, I thought perhaps instead of my body failing me, I’m failing my body. That instead of this whole parenting gig failing me, I’m failing the parenting gig. And maybe instead of trying to hold on to was I was, I should embrace the Who I Am Now.
And I would. If I knew who that was.
We have a bedtime routine like most everyone we know. There is some wrestling involved (playfully with LB and out of necessity with the baby). There is tooth brushing, a story or two and a bedtime kiss. Some nights Daddy or I will sit in the small chair next to LB’s bed for five minutes. This helps with the transition for our anxious child and she has come to expect and rely on this time. It’s five minutes. Five out of our entire day.
Some days I feel compelled to run out of their room and start working. Most days I feel the messy kitchen getting grimier and hear the TV blaring. There is chaos and disorder. It bugs me. I like lists. I like things picked up. I like my alone time.
Tonight, as I lay my daughter in bed, I let her know I wasn’t going to spend my five minutes with her tonight. “Baby O is still awake, sweetie, and if I sit there he won’t go to sleep. I’m just going to lay you down and come check on you.” Because of her anxiety, I talk about everything with her. I talk about what we’re going to do, what is going to happen and what is coming. I talk about what we just did. I talk about what’s changing and why.
Still, sometimes I forget she’s only three.
So, I did as I said, kissed her, laid her brother back down in his crib and ran downstairs to clean the kitchen and start a little bit of work. Two steps down the stairs, I hear screaming and crying.
And I got pissed.
I got pissed because I was JUST in there telling her why I couldn’t stay. I got pissed because she screams for drama at least ten times a day. I got pissed because this is my only alone time and because her brother is also trying to sleep in the same room. I got pissed because I’m tired a lot of the time of the neediness and the clinging and the constant “LOOKLOOKLOOK MEMEME COMEHERECOMEHERECOMEHERE”
I got pissed because sometimes it’s just a little over done. And tonight, I was over done.
I decide to give her a few minutes to herself and teach her a lesson. In my head, I’m always trying to teach her a lesson. Tonight’s lesson: a) mommy needs her quiet time b) you go to bed when we put you there and c) listen to me.
After about ten minutes of her maniacal crying, I ran up, pissed, to let her know it was unacceptable. I opened the door and found her laying in her bed sobbing. Baby O was standing in the crib perplexed. I went to her bedside and spoke harshly, “This is NOT OK. It’s time to go to sleep and you’re keeping your bother up!”
Then she looked at me with her teary eyes.
“I just. I just. I just. Wanted you. To sit. With me.” She gulped for air as I stood there, angry, listening to her tell me all she wanted was.. me.
I wasn’t sure what the lesson was any more.
I fetched another bottle for Baby O, let her know I’d sit for five minutes next to her but that sometimes I wouldn’t be able to. Today, though, I would. I fed the baby, held him and smelled his hair. LB relaxed a bit next to me and they both became quiet and soft. The room relaxed. I relaxed. It was bedtime.
Maybe the lesson tonight was more for me. Maybe the lesson was to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember that I was once that little girl who cried when things changed. I was the little girl who just wanted her mom to scratch her back for five minutes. I didn’t understand when my mom worked and I didn’t like being alone either. I still don’t. So why would I anger so quickly at my small daughter who is so much like myself?
Tonight I learned how to react. I hope I remember tomorrow.
20 guests here now.