Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dreams

I want to remember how to dream.

And I don't mean dream like that recurring one where I'm somehow back in school and haven't gone to one of my classes for the entire semester and now it's time for finals and I realize I'm about to fail.  Wait, everyone has that one, right?

No, I mean the kind of dream that involves thinking big, aspiring high, wanting and believing in something meaningful and profound.

I've been thinking a lot about how much it hurts when people don't respect my dreams, when I as a person feel invalidated, when my dreams aren't as important as everyone else's needs.  And I started thinking maybe the problem was that I don't speak up for myself and tell people those dreams.  But when I decided that I would woman up and own up to my dreams, to put them out there, to demand they be respected and appreciated and considered important by anyone who claims to be in my corner, I realized I had a more fundamental problem.

I didn't have anything to tell.

I don't remember when I stopped dreaming, when having a want bigger than "I want a moment to breathe" or "I want the toys in here picked up" seemed worth having.  It might have been longer ago than I think.  It might have happened well before I had kids.

I remember teaching kids to write memoirs, and realizing how long it had been since I'd put a pen to a paper of my own, and written anything more profound than the words "This is good, but you could flesh this idea out more."

I remember the freshman girls crying in my room at lunch, I remember giving up that free time willingly and graciously and uncomplainingly.  I remember the warmth of that feeling of being needed.

I remember sitting in senior seminar discussing Toni Morrison's Paradise, feeling like everything in my life was effortless, feeling the gentleness and the ease with which the words came out of my mouth, pushing back gently but firmly, making sure my voice was heard, feeling like I was entirely in my element.

But I don't remember wanting.

I don't remember imagining something amazing and believing I could be it.

When I was six, I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up.  I was a terrible dancer.  I was clumsy, I was awkward, I was chubby. I had no idea.  I went to dance class every week, and I smiled and I practiced.

When I was ... always, I wrote stories and poems in notebooks.  I had a notebook in my room in first grade. I filled books and books in high school.  I took creative writing classes in college.

I wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to be a mother.  With all my heart, I wanted those things.  I still do.

But there's a difference between wanting and dreaming.  Between being and aspiring.  I can be happy in my heart with where and who I am and feel like my soul needs more.  To reach.  To grow.

But I don't remember how to know which way to reach.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On patience

"It's hard to wait, baby.  I know," I tell my sweet eldest girl, at least once a day.

Trust me, I know.

As a mother, I know it's part of my job to teach my kids how to do things for themselves.  To let them try, even if they can't get it right.  To build in them a sense of competence, of power and control, of independence.  I believe that it's important, maybe one of the most important things we do.  I value it.

But good Lord, I don't have the patience.

"It's time to get dressed," I said cheerfully.  "Choose your pants and shirt."  I opened the drawer in BG's dresser and then walked away.  Scooped up little sister and left the room.

Because if I'd stood there and watched her do it?  I would have screamed.

Ten minutes later, my youngest and I both dressed, I came back.  There stood my spirited first born, in her underwear, drawer still open, dancing in a circle.

"Hi mommy!  I'm doing my pattern dance."

Right.

"Did you choose pants and a shirt?"

"Nope!"

Okay.

"Well, let me know if you need help.  I can choose them if you want to."

"Nonono!"

I nodded.  And I walked away.

This was a good day.   She found me in the hallway a few minutes later with the shirt pulled halfway over her head, giggling and telling me she had lost her head.  I pulled it down, and she disappeared back into her room to finish dressing.  Which she did.

I didn't yell. I  didn't nag.  It was a freaking miracle.

We've started getting dressed earlier in the morning.  I plan in a 20 minute margin to put on shoes.  I give several reminders, a time limit and a consequence on picking up toys.  I walk away a lot.

I don't want to yell anymore.

The monologue in the back of my head screams "You know how to do this!  Why are you acting like this?  Why are you making this harder?  It would be so much easier just to take over and do this for you.  But I can't!  I shouldn't!  I'm a terrible mother!  Why am I so freaking impatient?"

It shouldn't matter if we are a few minutes late to library story time.  It shouldn't be a big deal if it takes us 20 minutes to put on shoes instead of 2.  I should enjoy my little girl while she's little.  I should find her performances endearing and hilarious instead of maddening.

But I am who I am.  I like to be on time.  I like to be efficient.  When we're doing things, I like to do them.

The question is, is that who I want her to be?

Or do I want her to know that no matter how much mommy really just freaking wants to get out the door and get to nature class, that I value her humor and her charm?  That I am listening to every word that she says?  That I am willing to stop and enjoy the moment instead of rushing off to the next thing?

And maybe that's what I want for myself too.

Where do I get more patience?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On three year olds and power struggles

Yesterday, I sat on the floor with both my children, playing blocks, soaking in the joy of watching then play together, of being able to be with them.

Until baby sister knocked over the tower.

"No, baby sister, no!  We do not knock over our big sister's towers!" Scolded BG, slapping the floor with her hand.

And my littlest, with a huge grin, slapped the floor and yelled, "buh!"

Sigh.

You see,  I explained, this is why you need to set a good example for your sister.  When you yell and hit things, you teach her to yell and hit things.

This morning, in the parking lot of the community college where we were taking a nature class, I was holding an umbrella against the snow and hiking my one year old up on my hip as I said, a little more sharply than I would have liked, "you have to hold my hand."

"SHUT UP.  JUST SHUT UP!" BG retorted.

I held my breath until we got to the car.

"Sweetie.  Those words make me feel sad."

"I'm sorry mommy.  That's why you shouldn't yell at me.  You teach me to yell."

Touché.  And that's no blunt point on your sword there, girl.

I've been yelling a lot lately.  I lose my temper.  I lose control.  I hate it.  I feel so ashamed.

BG knows where every one of my buttons is.  She knows exactly how to elicit a power struggle, and lately it seems like she thinks everything merits one.

I know I shouldn't yell.  I know I shouldn't react.  I know I shouldn't take it personally.

I guess beating myself up for that isn't helping anything.

I read something the other day about making sure your kids' attention bucket and power bucket are filled.

Who is filling my power bucket?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Deliberate

I've been feeling stuck lately.  I've been having a hard time putting a finger on or a name to what it is that I want.

Then I found the Power of Moms site and podcast, and I had a name for what it is I've been looking for.  Deliberate.

I want to be deliberate.  In everything I do.  In all my choices.  

I am tired of stumbling through life.  I am tired of surviving until bedtime.  I am tired of feeling distracted and overwhelmed and out of sorts and torn in different directions.  

I am tired of fiddling with my tablet or worrying about the housework when I'm supposed to be playing with my kids.  I am tired of feeling guilty about not paying attention to my kids when I'm writing (or not writing.  Which is what usually happens.)  I am tired of feeling resentful about being a maid when I'm doing the housework and tired of feeling frustrated and sloppy when I don't get it done.

I am tired of sitting down at naptime and not having any idea what it is that I want to do, what will fill my cup, and then finding that naptime is over and I haven't done a damn thing for myself or anyone else and feeling grumpy as I go collect my kids and dump them in front of the TV.

I want to do better.  But I'm tired of thinking I'm not good enough.

I want to take ownership of everything I do.  To sit down and consciously take care of myself when that's what I"m doing and to consciously be with my kids when that's what I want.  

And that is what I want.  I know what I want.  I can take care of myself, I can take care of my family.

I just have to decide to.

(Disclosure: I was chosen as an Ambassador for Power of Moms.  But they aren't paying me, and they didn't ask me to write this.  I just think they're awesome.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

There is no normal

One of the biggest things depression took away from me is my ability to trust myself and my own feelings.

That bitch.

I've known this for a while, but when I was talking to a friend the other day I realized how insidious the language we use to talk to each other (and ourselves) can be.

"I worry a lot about other people, is that normal?"
"I resent my kids sometimes, is that normal?"
"I lose my temper when my kids are whining and yelling at me, is that normal?"
"I feel tired, like I need a break, and I don't want to do aaaaaaanything, is that normal?"
"Wait, are other people worried about these things.  I'm not.  Is that normal?"

I find myself reality checking every thought and every feeling.  Is this real?  Is this rational?  Is it just the depression?  Do other people feel this way?

Is it normal?

If I feel this way, is there something wrong with me?

Guys.

There is no normal.

We all want validation.  We all want to feel like we aren't alone.  We all want to be part of something bigger, to feel a sense of connection with those around us.

Those things are okay.  Those things are natural.  Human.  Nothing to be ashamed of.

But here's the thing.  None of it is anything to be ashamed of.

None of our feelings are wrong.  We can't beat them out of ourselves.  We can't reality check ourselves into not wanting something.

We feel what we feel.  We want what we want.  And all we really need to hear from each other is, "You, right now, are safe and loved, just the way you are."

That's as normal as it gets.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fullmindedness. Wait, that's not right.

"Your kids are fine, moms.  Don't worry about them.  Maintain your focus.  Reach your arms up.  Breathe in and out.  You know if you forget to breathe in yoga, you're going to forget to breathe when your kids are yelling at you."

I fix my eyes on a light switch on the front wall and slowly breathe, in through my nose, out through my nose.  My little one wraps her arms around my shins.

"Yoooooga teeaacher," I hear BG trill the incredibly descriptive direct address.  "The babies keep knocking over the tooooweeers."

In through my nose, out through my nose.

"That's okay," answers the instructor.  "That's part of the practice.  To keep going even though things get knocked down.  Want to do this pose with me?  Moms, sit back in Utkatasana."

The air that comes out through my nose as I sit back into chair pose comes from somewhere deep inside me where I didn't know I was holding it.  My little one reaches her arms up with a whimper, and I scoop her up and hold her against my chest as I squeeze my knees together and tuck my tailbone.  Still breathing.  Still focusing on the light switch.

It's only for this one moment, in this one place, but it matters.

***

Before yoga class, I sat on the floor with both girls to play.  I'd shut off all my social media.  I wanted to just be there.  I wanted to be present, to be fully in the moment.  

In the back of my head were dinner plans.  Worries about the laundry and the dishes.  Wishes for some time for myself.

And I saw them, and I waved at them, and I pushed them away.  Again and again and again.

And I tried not to judge myself.  And I tried not to judge myself for judging myself.  (I've said this before.  I'll probably say it again.  It will be a long time before I'm there.)

"Moooommmmy, what should I doooo?"  "Mommmmmmmmmy, my baby sister is knocking over my towers."  "Moommmmmmy."

I moved the baby out of the way, again and again and again.  I tried to distract her with different toys, to build separate towers for her to knock down. But again and again, she zeroed in on what BG was building and began to take it apart, shrieking and crying when I pulled her back.

I closed my eyes.  I couldn't breathe.  There was no way to make both of my children happy.  There may not have been any way to make either of them happy.  Was I doing it wrong?  I wanted to be anywhere but here.  Being present is overrated.

****

I've just finished reading Jon Kabat Zin's The Mindful Way Through Depression.  It made a lot  of sense to me.  It resonated with me.  It spoke to a lot of places I've been going in my head lately, without research.

I want to be in just one place at a time.

I want to give my thoughts their space, let them come up where they will, without letting them take over my life.  I want to love myself, to have permission to be who I am.  I want to have a space that is completely without judgment.  And I want to not judge myself when I do judge (see, I told you I'd say it again).

At the end of the book there was an 8 week guided plan for building mindfulness skills.

In the first week, it suggested, you are to do a 20 minute body scan, three 3 minute breathing spaces, and mindfully attend to one daily task, every day.

What the flying ....?

How was I supposed to do all that?  How was I supposed to add that to the day I already have?  How was I supposed to find 20 minutes when no one was touching me or talking to me?

I was never going to get it right.  I was never going to be fixed.

...

I don't need to be fixed.   Just like my writing, just like my parenting, my life is happening right now.  Whether I'm ready or not.  Whether I've exercised my neuroplasticity or not.

I'm here.  Now.

And that's enough.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ready or not

I am piled on the couch with both my children.  The little one is laying across my stomach, and the big one is leaning on my shoulder and tickling her sister.  They are both giggling.

And I am reading articles on how to parent.

I've been thinking and talking a lot about showing up before I'm ready, about being brave, about putting myself out there while I'm still imperfect.  But mostly when I do that, I'm talking about writing.  I"m talking about advocacy.  I'm talking about things that happen outside my house.

But the raw truth is that the thing in my life that requires the most courage is happening right here on my couch.

Loving my kids is terrifying.

Right now, there are two people, two of the people most important to me in the world, who rely on me for everything.  For whose lives and development I am 100% responsible. Who I have to nurture and educate and love and cherish 24 hours of every day.

And sometimes, I really don't wanna.

And it isn't because I don't enjoy my children.  It isn't because they bore me really or because there's something else I'd rather be doing.  It's because I am so scared of screwing it up.

I read books and articles, and I ask advice.  I make lists, and I obsess over decisions.  I curl up into myself, researching and learning, preparing myself to parent.  When I'm ready, when I'm perfect, when there is no chance of making a mistake, when there is no danger to anyone I love, that's when I will show up.

But parenting is happening right now.  It is happening right now, when my one year old is brushing her own hair with her sister's brush, when my three year old is sitting next to me in butterfly pose (just like mama) and summarizing for me the Curious George episode she just watched.  It's happening whether I am ready or not.

I'm scared.  I'm allowed to be scared.  I'm allowed to not enjoy every minute.  I'm trying not to judge myself for not being present in the moment every moment, and I'm trying not to judge myself for judging myself for that.

My big girl is pretending to take my temperature now.  "Are you sick today mommy?  I think you're about to have a fever.  I need to give you a special shot!"

My little girl has a toy phone balanced between her shoulder and ear and is stirring the tiny coffee pot she's put on the play stove.

I am smiling at them.  I am closing my eyes and thinking happy thoughts for my shot.  I am echoing the baby's babbling and signing back to her. I am writing.

This is my real life.  It's not a dress rehearsal.  I'm already doing it.

What a scary thought.