I continued to climb out of that funk over the weekend.
Several shared meals, 2 glasses of wine, many people I enjoy, an adults-only party where I remembered I like me (and I can be fun! and talk about more than my baby!), lots of chaos and laughing and loving the moment(s) made for a salve for my spirit that I needed very much.
I'm often the sort of person for whom life feels heavy much of the time. I enjoy it; part of my approach to life is openness toward all of the adventure that life has to offer.
Nolan has highlighted both of those things in me. I determined early on that I don't want to break his curious, adventurous little spirit by keeping him too safe. He does climb things and cause my heart to stop on a regular basis, but he is really enjoying exploring life. I love that about him and our life as a family.
Still, I'm never going to be a laid-back mom. I know, "never say never." I just don't see it happening.
I often wonder/worry over "am I really doing what's best for Nolan? for my family?"
I hear that's normal.
I look that at gap-toothed little grin, and I just want to give him everything. Every adventure, every opportunity. He turns me to mush several times a day, and then I'm back to the questioning how I can do what's best for him, for us, for the 3 of us.
Right now, I am looking for work, and I'm a mess of emotions. Part of me wants to stay home forevermore and just see what life has to offer us. I don't want to miss out on any snuggles, the sound of the giggle, or that look of wonder I love so much. I don't want to see his crazy little personality get stamped out and truth be told, I want to be needed.
I am needed. Money is really tight around here right now, and I need to find a job. I am both excited about the change (a chance to use my skills! adult time!) and not looking forward to it at all (having to say goodbye to my baby most days).
Nolan is at an age right now where he needs me, of course, but he needs independent play, and he can do it himself, thank you. It's so good for both of us; I know I'm going to have to learn throughout my whole life to let the little boy who is my heart on legs go because it is so good for both of us, but it is not easy for me at all.
I think me going to work could be good...again, for both of us. No matter what I do during the day, it is still just the two of us the majority of most days. While we get out nearly every day (Nolan will grab at the diaper bag and repeatedly point to the door if I take too long), he still takes two naps a day and needs some recharge time. I could use a little more interaction with my peers, and I miss the thrill of seeing an event I put together happen smoothly (or at least appear to happen smoothly) or the light bulb moment happen for a student.
I know by now that I am rarely, if ever, alone in whatever I am dealing with or how I am feeling. I know there must be other mothers whose hearts are a mess over the best thing to do for their babies.
I think this might be the best thing I can do right now, and I hope it's enough.
I should probably be sleeping right now.
I've been awake since 4 am, and at this point, I can't just go back to sleep. Which is okay, because I'd love to spend some time with my keyboard.
Nolan's been sleeping through the night lately, in his own bed. Getting him there took nearly a year, but we got into a good rhythm just before we left for 5 nights in Gettysburg. I thought that might be the end of that. It wasn't.
The past 2 or 3 nights, though, he wakes up upset and needing to snuggle. We are just about done with breastfeeding, and I think he misses all that comfort and extra cuddling.
Maybe I do, too?
Yesterday, Nolan's grandparents and Aunt Steph came over for cake and to shower him with so many presents. (We decided against a big party this year.) It was lovely. Nolan was showered with lots of attention and love, which is exactly what I wanted for him at his birthday celebration.
I was surprised to find out that I didn't feel the way I thought I would. I thought I'd feel warm fuzzies and movie-worthy magical moments, or something like that. Instead, I just felt sad.
I know that seems strange, doesn't it?
I just remembered today that I wanted to make a banner out of pictures of Nolan's first year. I really wanted one, but somewhere in Tim's traveling and getting sick and me trying to wrap my mind around how to adequately celebrate a year of being parents to an amazing little kid, I forgot. I also really wanted to take Nolan to the park yesterday. It was a beautiful day, and we need to get ourselves into the sunshine as much as possible these days, but I knew I couldn't do it all in time, so I stewed. I mean, I was really grumpy for a little while. And then I wised up. Everyone would be fine with out a banner, right? We went to the park and climbed the stairs, slid down slides, crawled under a bridge, rode those springy things that rock back and forth and make me nervous every time. We ran through leaves and found a basketball and enjoyed our neighborhood on the trip up and back. At one point, I answered a text just as Nolan looked back at me in a look, Mom! kind of way. It broke my heart that I was on my phone just when we was trying to share a moment with me, so I put it away.
The whole experience was just good. Just what we both needed, I think. But it meant there were no decorations. Although I still feel like I made the right choice, I just know I can do better at putting together a get-together than that. I know Nolan doesn't care and only I do.
I just...maybe it's the time change(I struggle with S.A.D) or my little boy growing up or the not knowing how to wrap up this past year in a nice and pretty way, but yesterday was just emotionally difficult for me.
Steph stayed afterward last night and we drank wine, and I so needed that.
My husband listened while I tried to explain the mess that was in my head, then hugged me tight and rubbed my feet.
Today, I am going over to a dear friend's house, where I will share a meal with some of my favorite people. Kelly and Lindsey both have adorable, crazy little boys, too, but they are older than Nolan. I know they'll commiserate with me and make me feel like I'm going to be okay.
And I am. I'm okay.
In list form, the things in this post that are so good in my life (as in, things I am thankful for)(because I think I do need this right now):
#7 (still continuing that list and trying to get to 25 before Thanksgiving). Time to myself, in the morning,my prime time.
#8. Nolan is sleeping (mostly) through the night! In his own bed!
#9. seeing Nolan so loved by his grandparents and his aunt
#10. Playing in the park with my son? One of my favorite things to do right now.
#11. Nolan's grandma and grandpa got him snow gear! So unless it's actually dangerous, our outdoor time has been given new life over what's supposed to be a snowy winter.
#12. I love my sister-in-law, of course, but I also really like her. I mean, I would choose her as a friend even if we weren't related. Also, I really just needed to relax and have a glass of wine last night, and she was there to enjoy it with me. That did me so much good.
#13. Nolan sleeping through the night means I can stay up sometimes and hang out with my husband, who I miss.
#16. French press coffee. (Oh, I didn't mention that? That is happening this morning!)
I am almost completely sure that a friend of mine will be moving in with us this weekend.
We're not renting a room or anything; he just needs a place to stay and we love him.
I'll be calling him Henry because I like that name and because I want to protect our friend's privacy while giving myself a space to hash out all the ways that life changes through his more present presence in my life.
Our house is somewhat small for an American home. It is a little bit old and fairly creaky, but as a small family of only two adults and one child, we don't need all that space to ourselves. It's silly really, to think we need it all to ourselves when we have plenty to share.
We've been saying we wanted to be available for things like this for awhile (I'm not sure how long), and now we're here. I'm a little bit nervous because while I'm SURE this is the right thing right now, the honesty that is forced when living with people can get messy. I don't want anyone walking on eggshells; I want to be able to talk and disagree and take on the challenge of sharing my life with someone a little more closely. That takes time. And energy.
I do have some desire to keep my space to myself, but I also think saying no would mean missing out on an opportunity to crawl into a new, stretched, and more beautiful, albeit messy skin.
This is a big thing for me, this learning to share this much of my stuff. At the same time, it's quite small. People do this kind of thing all the time. They have something someone else needs, so they share. I love and so respect that in people. I want to be that kind of people. I want Nolan to grow up in that kind of life.
So. Here we go.
The next big little thing.
I took Nolan to the gym with me last night.
I was thinking a yoga class would be a win for both of us. I could decompress and he could motor through the play room without me constantly trying to ruin his fun (ie. keeping him from electric outlets, falling downstairs, landing face-first in the tub, playing in the cat's food...).
We arrived, and he was sleeping. I paid, signed him in, set him down, talked with the child care workers. Still asleep. So I left. I mean, I was about to miss the class, so I left.
And it was wonderful. Just what I needed.
Nolan woke up sometime while I was gone, of course, and because I wasn't around when I dropped him off, all he wanted was to be held.
So much for running off some of that (abundant) energy.
I haven't been able to find my wedding rings lately.
I lose my phone regularly and go to do something only to forget what I was going to do when I get there. I've sort of gotten used to this, but the wedding rings were too much for me, and I was frustrated.
I tore apart "everything."
I called the hotel I stayed at a couple of weekends ago.
I prayed quite a bit and eventually told God that I knew he knew where they were, and it would be really nice if he'd clue me in.
I imagined that someone was holding onto them to teach me a lesson, and when I found out, I told that someone that I didn't need to be taught a lesson with the rings. I needed someone to show me how to be a good mother and how to save up enough energy to be a wife without shortchanging my son. In my head, I was really letting the unspecified person have it, but I also knew there was no one actually trying to teach me a lesson.
I knew I had actually lost the rings. But I teeter back and forth between feeling confident in motherhood and okay, every thing's changing again, and how do I handle this? Lately, I've been feeling less than confident, and so easily tired out, and it felt good to blame a non-existent someone else for a few moments.
After awhile, I just kind of had to let it go. Consciously relax and move on. Because I have a son who needed me to cuddle him and play games and sing and make him laugh and not be a stressed out basket case.
Somewhere in all of that, I was able to relax about my current place in motherhood. I don't know what it was. Maybe the struggle and the eventual peace that came with it? Maybe it was all the extra snuggles he's been needing (that is mama needed, also)?
I don't know. I know that we ebb and flow, ebb and flow.
We struggle, not purposely, but for good reasons. Reasons like little people who depend on us and husbands who want to be on our team.
Of course, after all of that, after the struggle and the letting go, I found my rings.
When I was a teenager, I was told that when I grew up, I'd be a beautiful woman. Always with a disclaimer like, "not that you're not pretty now, but you'll be beautiful when you grow up."
It's hard to know how to take a comment like that when you're 15, but I get what they meant, I think. I was in an awkward stage, but I was going to grow out of it. I was going to look like I belonged in my own skin soon.
Knowing I'm going to grow out of an uncomfortable circumstance that I just can't seem to fight my way out of, into something that fits well and feels great (like a perfect pair of jeans) can be comforting.
What I didn't know (and still often forget) is that the awkward stage thing is something I have and will continue to go through over and over so long as I don't stop changing (trying new things, learning, asking questions).
It comes after a job change, a life change, a hair cut (ahem, my last one), a new role or project.
But I (will) grow into it. After a while, it starts to fit and feel pretty much near perfect.
I originally called The Social Eater my "courage project." Because stepping out and actually acting on something that really lights me up inside felt scary. Who knows what will happen, if I fail, if anything will come of it? Who knows if I can make a positive, measurable difference in a world FULL of broken spots?
But now, my project feels normal. I mean, yes, it does take effort and planning, but it's what I do now, this chasing my passion thing. It's not scary at all (anymore); it's just a part of my life right now.
It's a part that I'm still so excited to share and live; that magic hasn't worn off. The magic of encouraging words hasn't worn off, either. (Encourage: to give courage. Thank you to every one of you who have done that for me.) They still propel me forward, so I hope I haven't given the impression that those words aren't still so meaningful to me.
I'm just saying that the part of trying new big and little things that is scariest for me is the first part.
This weekend, I made bread from scratch. I've baked bread before, but usually the quick bread kind (like banana bread or chocolate chip pumpkin) or the kind I can leave in my bread maker and move on. But this kind was all me and no sugar for the yeast to grow on. I was nervous, but I did it. It was good, in fact. So good that it's almost gone.
My husband and I also cooked beans from scratch. It's easy, and I'm not sure why I haven't done it before other than trying new things, even little new things, is scary for me. Oh, and it takes some effort.
Almost every single new Nolan thing is a little scary. The first time I took him in the car by myself. The first time I was alone with him for an extended period of time. The first long outing. The first non-pureed food. The first time I told somebody "no" because it was best for him.
Choices that seem so big turn out to be not so scary, but they're still big. They still add up.
Nolan had this look on his face this morning while I made his breakfast that I just needed to capture on camera.
Except the camera was upstairs and my desire to just be with him and experience that look won out. Grabbing the camera would have taken me about 30 seconds, but staying is what I chose in the moment.
But that look? Oh, my goodness. Eyebrows raised, lips puckered into a closed "O," waiting expectantly- mostly patiently- for mashed banana and rice cereal. It had me breaking out into a smile at every glance.
We both did our kitchen thing-him with that look, his waiting, his watching the cars go by. Me with my mashing, mixing, and trying to get some kind of breakfast for myself started.
He took a few bites but was more interested in taking the kitchen in, in watching the sun rays stream in and those cars move across the highway.
A week ago (and even further back than that), I was struggling. Struggling to put my finger on just what was bothering me. Wanting to talk to someone who might get it but not quite knowing which words might provide a proper outline.
Layer by layer (a blog entry or two,conversations with a friends, a social encounter-or several!), I realized I felt like a different person and I wasn't sure if I liked me because I felt like I didn't know me. Not everything has changed, but so much has. That realization came with an almost instantaneous of COURSE you've changed- you're a MOTHER now.
I don't know if everyone is like this, but I'm the kind of person who almost always feels so much better after she untangles all the mental knots she's been working through.
I also realized- I do like me. I get to watch the world through the eyes of this little boy who is the best of both me and my husband. I get to watch the different kinds of excitement on his face, listen to that giggle, hold him when his lip goes all pout-y and he breaks into a slow, sad cry.
I don't care about cars at all and I can't catch or throw very well (you can imagine how I am in group sports situations), but I will learn those things because my son loves them and I have a feeling he will continue loving them. We will try out thousands of new things together, but we will also be content with simple things- like plastic spoons and sitting on the porch to watch the world go by.
That look on my son's face this morning, with its patience-but-not-really, is a mirror.
I'm linking up with Just Write, an exercise in writing about ordinary and extraordinary moments.
I was feeling like...some kind of alien and I wanted to write it out. Life is just different as a mother.
(I'm imagining the long-time moms reading this and chuckling at me. It's okay. You can. It's like when I look at my little boy and say to Tim, "he's such a BOY!" I know how simple my "revelations" are these days. )
I often try to get Nolan and I out of the house to do "something fun" 1x per day. I've noticed that any more or less than that usually gets to be too much for both of us. We both love to be around people, we really do, but we need plenty of time to recharge, too.
Here's the thing. If said outing includes (much-needed) time with a dear friend and Nolan is awake and we are not going for a walk or he just doesn't want to be in his stroller...well, then, friend time now Nolan time with friend on the side. And it's fine; it really is. Nolan is a charmer most of the time, I'm proud of him, and people like to see him.
I just have this need to be known. I want to feel understood...so sometimes I put too much pressure on a particular experience, instead of just enjoying the moments as I live them like I should. And then of course I am disappointed because life often has its own agenda.
It is these types of feelings that lead me to be thankful for the internet. Places to write and have conversations and read posts that I can just nod my head as I read...
And think maybe I should start that moms group I've been thinking about. I'll make the food, and they'll make me think I can have a conversation without having to explain myself or Nolan. Not that anyone makes me think I have to offer up excuses; it's just me. Something I have to deal with and get over.
My little night owl woke up early, ate, and went back to sleep. This is becoming a routine I can (mostly) count on and it works well for this morning-loving mom. I feed him, sometimes pump, then have some time to do whatever takes priority in my eyes.
This morning it was a tough workout.
And I don't know- maybe it was the fact that everything seems better in the morning or the endorphins- but today just seems better. Brighter. Less self-induced pressure. More do-able.
I think I may just start that brunch-for-moms group, though, because I'll need help fighting off the alien feelings when they come back.
[Photo taken by my sister-in-law, Steph]
I'm giving myself (maybe) 10 minutes to write this.
These days, it might take me days to write a post. I get a few thoughts down, and then...
it is time to feed my baby.
Change his diaper, his clothes, his anxiety into peace. Into comfort.
I aim to soak up every moment.
I love the written word, but I love my son (so much) more.
Things aren't quite the way I imagined them to be.
Some things are- there are times when I miss nearly unlimited time alone with my husband..time to explore, to watch tv uninterrupted, to sleep through the night. I think I knew I would miss him sometimes...
Although life as a mother has certainly been (and still is) quite a transition, one that includes fewer consecutive hours of sleep than I would like, it is a rich life.
There will come a day- much sooner than I would like- when I will have to begin the slow and painful process of letting him "go." I try to quickly shove such thoughts out of my head- especially at night, because the mix of tiredness and postpartum hormones leave me feeling sad. But I'll use those thoughts to compel me to soak up every moment that is now, that is right in front of me, that is precious and available to me.
These moments are so precious.
Just like my little boy.
This post is part of the Just Write link-up, a weekly exercise in free writing ordinary and extra-ordinary moments.
This post is part of the Just Write link-up, a weekly exercise in free writing ordinary and extra-ordinary moments. I am not so good at writing about single moments yet, but this is, indeed, a free write. In fact, I ended up writing about something entirely different than I was planning- a typical free-writing characteristic for me.
I am drinking hot chocolate made from the last of my Equal Exchange cocoa while I write this. Choosing fair trade chocolate has become a simple, non-negotiable way that I can support healthy families, economies, and communities. Anything that involves food and community easily pulls at my heart strings.
10 years ago, I made a decision to go to college for a degree in secondary education. I was not always in love with my decision, but I chugged along and achieved my goal. I worked as a substitute teacher while I transitioned to my new multifaceted role of youth pastors wife, then landed a job as a pre-GED teacher in Reading. It was a job that left me frustrated many days, wishing for something else, running back to my old numbing agent (stuffing my face).
Teaching is not something that pulls on my heart strings. I did it because I wanted another opportunity to get to know and speak hope into lives of teenagers. My number one goal was mentoring teenagers because I was a teenager when I started the whole process and I saw the need (including for myself).
I remember turning down the first opportunity to teach GED classes because it didn't fit with my goals.
I don't completely remember what had me going for the second one, but I think it had something to do with proving I could do more financially and professionally than substitute teach. It was more about my pride than anything else,I think.
Not my heart strings. Teaching didn't pull at my heart strings.
My pride led me to a job...with adults. Not teenagers. Adults who'd dropped out of school for one reason or another, who felt angry, discouraged, overwhelmed, unsure of what to make of the little white woman fumbling her way through how, exactly, to meet the widely varying needs of each student at the same time.
I fell in love. Still not with the teaching, but with the students. They opened up my world like no one else. Some of them let me into their worlds, shared their stories, taught me more about life...and I did the same. I coveted smaller-group times so I could see that light bulb moment. You know, that moment where something just "clicks" and becomes like second nature? I love that.
I discovered that I am not a great teacher, but I am a really good tutor.
I discovered that many people living here now have the same heart-strings-pulling effect as food and community.
I came home many days feeling so drained, but I just knew I was gathering all this experience for a reason. (Sound familiar, Katie?)
This morning, The New York Times posted that Reading is at the top of the U.S. poverty list. You know, the city full of people I fell in love with.
My head is spinning because that kind of news feels like an insurmountable wall. But I will find a crack, a hole, a ladder...because I'm kind of bent on staying here. This is my city now so I am responsible for being a part of it's restoration.