I need to lose 20 pounds and my house is a disaster. That’s right. I’m admiting it. I could go on about how 10 pounds would bring me back to my pre-pregnancy weight which really isn’t that bad and I have a new baby and a two year old so it’s not a huge deal that my house is a sty.. but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to own the fact that I am a disorganized mess and I need to fix it. So, there. I owned it. Sweet. Now what?
Maybe I should take pictures of my nasty house and my big ol’ post pregnancy belly and post them online for all the world to see.. that would hold me accountable. It could also earn me some cash. I bet someone out there has a fetish for messy houses and pasty bellies. Huh..
On second thought… nevermind. I think I’ll just stick with the accountability of having to look at all of it everyday. No need to share.
In the past few days I’ve received several messages from friends who can be counted among those cool enough to check out my bloggy blog. It’s really interesting because the gist of those messages has been “thanks for writing about your experience. I’m going through the exact same thing.” The funny thing is that I’m getting these from some of the very people who inspired me to do something more with my life. They always appeared to me to have it together and to be doing exactly what they want to do. I guess it’s a grass is always greener thing.. but I have to wonder: WTF is going on with all of us? Why are we so unsettled?
Sometimes I think the problem is that our generation has been given too many options. We’ve always been told we can do whatever we want. Between TV and the Internet we’re exposed to so many different things it becomes hard to ferret out what truly interests us. I think, when we graduate high school, we also feel a lot of pressure to choose NOW. How can you possibly have enough life experience at that point to really know what direction you want your life to go in? I mean, some people do… and that’s fantastic. Some people always know and have the drive to go after it. But I think the majority of us change so much in our early 20’s that, by the time we hit 25, we feel like we’re entering the midlife crisis zone. It’s the awkward teenager phase all over again except, instead of not knowing what the hell our bodies are doing, we can’t figure out our own minds.
I’m starting to think this is the wrong way to look at it. This inability to settle shouldn’t be viewed as a crisis, it should be viewed as a gift. It’s not that we CAN’T settle. It’s that we AREN’T WILLING TO. And that can be a beautiful thing. It’s an opportunity to try different things and not feel guilty if they don’t work out. So what if you went to school for something and now you hate it? You tried something and it didn’t work out. SO WHAT? Don’t waste your time focusing on the failure, see it as an opportunity to grow and change. Just add it to the list of things you know you don’t want to do. It gets you one step closer to finding the thing that will bring you joy.
So, there’s my self help guru moment of the day. ‘Cause, you know, I’m totally in a place where I should be doling out advice (sarcasm people, SARCASM). Now I want to pose a couple of questions. What did you want to be when you were younger? What was that one thing that excited you, gave you that spark that you needed to get through the awfulness that is highschool? Did you give it up? Why? We may not have had the life experience at that age to choose the right career path, but we did have the time and innocence to follow our guts and dream.
I used to want to be a writer and a singer. Both faded out for me because I convinced myself that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Plus, you know, “those aren’t realistic career choices.” I didn’t do either for a very long time. This venture into blogging is the first writing I’ve done for myself in years. And you know what? It feels DAMN good.
This morning I was late for work because I had a meeting with the director of the art gallery at USM. I’m going to be interning there for the school year. The meeting went well and I came out of it with the feeling that maybe this whole elementary school teacher thing might not be the direction I want to go in. Talking to her reminded me of why I chose an art history concentration in the first place. I’m starting to think that the teaching thing is just another crack pot scheme I’ve come up with to distract myself from what I really want to do. Granted, I don’t really know exactly what that is yet, but I do have an idea of the field I want to be in and I think I keep veering off the path because, deep down, I don’t have the confidence to pursue it. I’m like a raccoon, distracted by the shiny new idea for a career that might (but probably won’t) take less leg work to get into. Focus, Jill.. focus..
So I leave the gallery thinking these things and wondering if I’ll ever be able to wade through the chaos that is my own brain. On top of this I’m obsessing about a work situation that is beyond pissing me off, rehearsing the speech I’m going to unload on my boss as soon as I get there. I’m also feeling totally unattractive and frumpy in my super sexy maternity shirt (I refuse to spend money on clothes until I lose more of this baby weight). It’s 80 degrees at 9:00 in the morning so I decide I NEED an iced coffee.
I pull into Dunkin’ Donuts, ranting and raving right up until I open the car door. I tend to talk to myself A LOT so if you ever drive by me and see my hands waving wildly and my mouth moving at a mile a minute don’t assume I’m on a hands free cell phone or that someone is hiding on the floor in the backseat of my car. Nope, I’m just using some self talk to work through my frustrations.. or I’m crazy.. Whatever.
I’m standing at the counter getting ready to order my coffee when I notice that the Boston Cream donuts are staring at me. I try to look the other way but they just keep right on trying to entice me with all their chocolately, gooey freshly frosted goodness. The girl comes up to take my order and I practice a super human amount of self control .
“Can I get a decaf blueberry, cream only?” OK, I got the sentence out and I’m not saying anything else.. She goes and gets my coffee, babbling something about how much she loves the blueberry flavoring in the white hot chocolate. I’m holding steady because I know the next question will be if I want anything else. She comes back with my coffee and asks the dreaded question.
“Nope, I’m all set.” Whew… I made it through. Now I just have to pay and get out of here..
“Are you sure? You get a free donut with the purchase of a medium coffee today.”
The Universe is trying to tell me something.
On Friday I came across a blog entry about the debate over whether moms should work or stay at home. Reading through the comments I became more and more enraged at the ridiculousness of both arguments and the petty, catty tone of the women writing them. I can’t believe how easily women turn on each other. I have never had a choice about working. For us it’s not a matter of sacrificing eating out or shopping at Walmart so that I can stay home. If I don’t work full time we can’t afford to pay our bills. PERIOD. So I work.. even though it kills me to leave my kids every day. I can’t think about whether or not it would be better for me to stay home because I simply do not have the option. Society finds so may ways to make women feel guilty and inadequate. It’s time we band together and change the tone of these conversations. All of us feel overwhelmed and guilty about something. All of us question whether we are making the right decisions. It wouldn’t be such a heated debate if people really felt the answers were so black and white. It’s the gray areas that catch us and put us on the defensive. If we could just stop arguing and start recognizing that we are all simply trying to make the best choices for our families maybe we could help each other to be better mothers instead of attacking each other.
So I spent the morning freaking out about the whole thing and trying not to let some of the comments get to me (one particularly lovely lady wrote about how she chose to stay home with her kids and now that she is back to work teaching school she can TOTALLY TELL which kids have moms who cared enough to stay home the first five years). It so happens that I was actually home with my kids on Friday. My daughter had a fever and, since she has had two febrile seizures, we don’t mess with fevers in our house. I came home from work so I could spend the day pumping her full of Tylenol and Motrin in an attempt to ward off any sudden temperature spikes.
I was still coming up with retorts to the whole awful argument as I laid my kids down in my bed to read books before nap time. I read through The Giving Tree once on autopilot. Then a little voice said “Read it again, Giving Tree, Mama.” I looked at my two year old. Her eyes were glassy and she was laying there limp and lethargic, a shadow of her typical self. I snapped out of my revere and reached over to brush the hair from her flushed forehead. ” You want this one again? You don’t want a different book?” She shook her head no. “OK, baby. We’ll read this one again.”
As I turned back to the beginning of the book I was suddenly completely aware of everything in that moment. A breeze blew in the window carrying the smell of freshly cut grass. My three month old son kicked his pudgy little legs and cooed between us. And it occurred to me that nothing else mattered. I was here right now with the two most perfect little people in the world. I could feel their warmth and hear their breath. They are alive and beautiful and I am the center of their world.
My weekend was filled with moments like that.. moments of grace where time moved more slowly for just a few seconds.. just long enough for me to take in the details and commit them to memory- The sound of Rory’s laugh as she played in the lake, the feel of her lips as she kissed my nose, my cheeks, my mouth, my ears.. again and again. And, finally, the heat of my son’s solid little body as I rocked him in the dark after a long day.. not wanting to put him down because as soon as I did he would be a little bit older.
I wish we could all stop focusing on what we are, are not or should be doing. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. I’m going to try, though, to live in the moment a little bit more.. to really appreciate what I have. When it comes down to it my kids won’t remember how much or how little time I was able to spend with them. They will remember the quality of that time and the love they received.
Yesterday I accepted my financial aid package for school for the coming year. That means it’s official: I’m really going back. I’ve been using family and work as an excuse not to finish the six measley credits I need for my degree for about three years now. Totally ridiculous, I know. In reality I’ve just been scared and (yes, I’ll admit it) completely lazy. Truth be told those six credits involve a required 135 hour internship and a studio art class that runs in three hour blocks twice a week, so the scheduling thing is a little crazy. But it’s something I need to do.
The plan right now is that I’m going to finish my original Art History degree then take the classes required to become certified to be an elementary school teacher. I don’t know if I’m totally sold on the teaching thing but it sounds good right now. Even if I decide to pursue something else after taking a few classes a little extra education never hurt anyone so it’s not like I will have wasted my time. I would really like to go into archaeology (I know, huh? Where’d that come from?) but I know that, at this point, I don’t have the time to commit to a masters and doctorate. Or, maybe I’ll decide that it is something I can pursue. I don’t know.
I’m one of those people who has so many interests I have a hard time narrowing what I want to do. In some ways this is fantastic because it means I’m open to trying new things. It also makes it so that I have a hard time differentiating between what I’m really interested in and what is just a fleeting fancy. For example:
- my fascination with history and the physical evidence it left behind= real interest
- my brief interest in taking hula lessons that peaks every time I watch the opening credits of Lilo and Stitch with my daughter= fleeting fancy
This may look cut and dry but things like the hula can be very distracting. I just need to learn to keep my focus on what I really want to pursue rather than what I think is cool but know I would never follow through with.. Like hula dancing.. or anything that involves any semblance of physical coordination.
So at the beginning of my day yesterday I was all “I’m going to start blogging. I won’t tell anybody, so no one will read it and that’s cool.” Mid-morning I had started the blog and told Rachel (the friend who’s been helping me out) with no intention of letting anybody else know. By the afternoon I had told my husband. The ability to keep a secret is obviously not my forte- especially when it’s about me. I wrote my second post yesterday afternoon and told Rachel I had linked to her business site. Rachel then posted a link to the reference on Twitter and Facebook. This is where it gets a little crazy.
I got home last night and, just for kicks, decided to check my blog stats. It was then that I discovered that blog stats are not just innocent numbers on a page. They are Internet crack. Since Rachel had linked to my blog it already had over 30 views.. and the number kept growing. I couldn’t stop checking my stats.. it was so exciting. Here I was thinking that no one would read it and look, over 40 people have.. oh, now it’s over 50… and that’s when my inner dialogue went from “oooohh look at the pretty numbers, all of these people are reading my blog” to ” HOLY SHIT PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY READING IT. What the hell did I write? I probably sound like a moron.. SHIT SHIT SHIT…”
I then did something I should NEVER EVER do.. I reread what I wrote… and decided that I sound far more unsettled than I actually am. Just to calm the crazy voice in my head I need to clarify a couple of things.
1. I adore my babies and my husband and wouldn’t change the choices I’ve made for anything because they’ve resulted in my being able to have this incredible family. The catalyst for this whole thing was actually my desire to find a career that will allow me to spend more time with them.
2. This quest for change is about making sure that I never end up being one of those women (you know the ones I’m talking about) who resents my husband and children because I never bothered to find out what my passion is. I want to be the best person I can be and, for me, that means having something outside of my family life that I love and am excited to do. I don’t want to be stuck in a career that doesn’t fit quite right just getting through the days. I want to go to sleep at night knowing I am doing the best I can to live my life to the fullest and to teach my kids not to be afraid to do the same.
I know these points were probably perfectly clear in my first posts, but I needed to write it again just to ease my mind. I tend to get a little obsessive ( in case you couldn’t tell).
So, that was my night. Riding the thrilling high of having actual real live people read my blog then falling into the depths of fear and panic because actual real live people were reading my blog. As of this morning the numbers are down to 2 or 3 views (far more normal I’m sure for a fresh faced little blog like mine). The panic has subsided and I think I’ve succeeded in writing this without worrying about what someone might think.
Just as a side note- I stayed up way later than any mother of a 3 month old should freaking out and wildly texting Rachel and my husband.. This resulted in my looking down this morning and realizing that I was still wearing my bra…IN THE SHOWER. Who needs alcohol when you’ve got sleep deprivation?
Since having my second baby three months ago I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of control I have over my life.. and how little I choose to use it. I love my life. I love my family.. but something is missing. I don’t know, maybe something about squeezing something that large out of my vagina (for the SECOND time) just begs for an epiphany.
I’m sure all of this has to do with age as well. I was 19 when I met my husband. We’ve been together almost 10 years. People kept telling me how much you change in your 20’s when I got married at 23.. how much you grow up and how many things you can miss if you get into all the big stuff early. I didn’t believe them at the time. And I still don’t completely agree. I’m happy in my marriage and I have no regrets about having my kids when I did. Everything I have done to this point has made me the person I am today. I don’t want this blog to be about how much I regret not partying my way through my early 20’s.. because that’s not how I feel. I’ve just come to realize (and here’s the Oprah moment folks) that I’m worth a lot more than I give myself credit for. I look at other people and find myself feeling jealous of their accomplishments. Now it’s time for me to accomplish something. Just for me. I don’t want to ever hear myself warning my daughter that you can’t do everything you want to do in life. Women shouldn’t have to pick and choose… or feel held back by the choices they’ve already made. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is always a way. While I will always encourage my children to follow their dreams, I think the best thing I can do as a parent is lead by example. So, while the next few months or years may be challenging I think I’m ready to face it and I will be a better mother, wife and person for it.