Things have simmered down here to a dull roar. I’ve been grateful for so much wisdom and insight on how to survive the hard times — thank you. No matter how often I hear great ideas, I forget and it’s so good to hear them again.
But now that there’s a lull at home, what I’m thinking about now is how to do better than muddle along. Sometimes it’s time to just be grateful for the moments of quiet. But sometimes it’s time to look again at what you do and how you do it. This is one of those times. And the auto-pilot response of “just push through” isn’t making it any more on many levels.
I’m on a crusade — no, that’s too energetic — I’m sitting down more and being quiet to find ways of making things better.
Not perfect, not sunshiny happy day after day, picture-perfect family better. But how to make all this, in a sense, worthwhile? That’s not the right word, but I haven’t yet found the right word.
I don’t mean worthwhile in the sense that I won’t keep parenting if I don’t like it. I mean worthwhile in the sense of finding new and deeper ways of being at peace with, even calm about, my life during the intense times of parenting. I’m told more are on the way.
Family life is not judgeable along the regular lines of life evaluation. It’s obvious to me that if I judged certain events of the last 11 years the way I might have judged a job, a boyfriend, a friendship, I’d be outta here.
But there is no outta here. I can’t get off this ride, nor do I really want to. So it’s about digging in and making it work. There’s a phrase: survive, live, thrive. I’m aiming for thrive now, really thrive.
I know that what is happening right now is autumn overwhelm, and it will pass. All I have to do is look at some pumpkins to relax. But if I stay in a certain mental space, the parenting outlook is bleak. Autumn overwhelm leads to holiday insanity. Then there’s gloomy winter, which shifts into a difficult spring (here in Santa Fe, spring brings awful, awful strong winds that just crush your spirit), an exhausting bunch end-of-year activities and then…the kids come home for summer. A whole new set of things to juggle until you get used to it and then it’s back to school.
So each year I’ve struggled at the mercy of this schedule, trying to stay positive with my head above water: “I LOVE Christmas!”, “I LOVE snow!” “I LOVE making 24 Valentine’s Day cards!” “I LOVE school fundrasiers!” and on and on and on…. And I do, I love it all, but there are two exhausted voices battling in my head: the always-tired-and-behind voice, and the these-years-are-precious-we-have-to-make-the-most-of-them voice.
Those voices then lose out to the realization that as a parent, it actually doesn’t matter what I love or don’t love – it’s what my girls love. And it’s my job to shepherd that. That’s what stays on the table, no matter what I think.
Of course that doesn’t mean they get every Littlest Pet Shop, play date or pair of skinny jeans they want. But I think it does mean that as I participate in their school, in their plays and teams; that I crack the whip on homework when I’d rather be lying in bed, slackjawed, watching TV series I missed the first time around. I’m sick, for example, of going to see the highly expensive Nutcracker every holiday season, but I think I’m going to. L loves, Loves, LOVES holiday traditions. That’s part of who she is.
So this is where worthwhile has to be discovered. Somewhere inside that I haven’t found before. Or at least in a lasting way. Because right now, knowing that I’ve given my kids, for example, great Thanksgiving memories that will give them warm feelings for a lifetime, isn’t enough any more. Well, yes it is. No. Well, I guess I’m stuck.
It’s clear that answer will end up being highly individual and temporary – simplify here, draw the line there, amp it up over there, as new factors come into play. The girls, too, are drawing their own lines; B, for example, will absolutely NOT be dragged to the Nutcracker again.
It’s going to be about slowing down internally — already working on that, and it’s refusing to kick into auto-pilot.
It’s going to be about training my brain to leap to gratefulness for creativity rather to irritation at yet another set of “cakes” created with flour, dirt, dish soap, food dye and every herb we have in the house.
It must be about soothing the irrational, entitled and nervous inner self that forgets that no one I know, if I think about it carefully, has ever gotten everything they’ve ever wanted, not even close.
I told my husband that I was having trouble finding a good way to end this post. He said, “How about “They lived happily ever after?”
It’s worked for other storytellers. I guess it works here too. The “happily” part. The goal and the challenge clearly stated. The details are up to me.