What I need most is what every parent of 3 small children needs – sleep. I’ve been sleep deprived since mid-2009 — I joke that I have a blood caffeine level that I have to maintain just to make it through the day. Except that it’s not really a joke.
It’s easy to say “Tonight’s the night I’m going to bed early!” But when it comes down to it, by the time I get home from work, and then we have dinner and do homework and have a bath now and then and maybe a book and a few minutes with each kid as I tuck them in, then nurse the baby down to sleep, then watch a show with M – I’m lucky if I’m in bed by my nominal bedtime of 10:30. I’m treating this as one of those things that will pass eventually; they all have to sleep through the night eventually, right? (If not, lie to me and tell me it’s true.)
There are other things that I use to replenish: running, reading books, going out with M for dinner and a cup of coffee, lunch with my girlfriends, the occasional lazy Sunday spent cross-stitching. Those are actually easier to get worked into my schedule than a nap. I feel like if I start going to bed earlier, then I have to give up some of those things, or time that I spend with my family members, or chores around the house. There are so many things that have to get done to keep this family working, and then so many more things and events that I want to do and participate in. I don’t want to live a life where I get up, go to work, come home, barely see anyone, don’t do anything, and then go to bed. That doesn’t sound like any kind of life worth living to me. I’d rather down a pot of coffee and keep on squeezing out the joy in as many moments as I can cram into my day.
The truth is, surprises make me nervous. I’m one of those people who, if you came up and yelled “Surprise!” would give you the side eye and start inching towards the nearest exit. My default assumption is that surprises are going to result in unhappy endings. I’m not as bad as this guy, but I’m not too far off.
So what surprised me this year? Snow days (multiple. In Alabama.) M’s uncle dying. That I would start crying when I saw my kids’ baby gear for sale at the consignment store. How good peanut butter stout tastes. Sitting in the grass in the front yard on a perfect sunny spring afternoon playing with the kids. A friend finally getting pregnant. Kids (multiple) starting to throw up on our vacation. Lowering my 5k PR by 3 minutes. Our friend’s dad dying. Lavender merlot blueberry jam. My grandmother dying. Losing a preschool slot. That I actually NEEDED a check for something. Another friend getting pregnant. Two of my high school classmates dying. Realizing that Fin was cutting four molars when she bit my finger. Feeling like time stopped when I walked into the Rivera Court at the DIA.
It’s a mix of good and bad. Much like life in general, I suppose. Some of them left me breathless, while some of them knocked the breath out of me and left me gasping for air. Sunshine and shadow, dappled light moving in and around and over me.
As I search for a way to wrap up this rather meandering pile of words, it hits me – I don’t feel like I am surprised that often because I am trying to release my expectations for how life unfolds. In order to be surprised, you have to have some preconceived notion of what is going to happen. And as I let go of those expectations, of the illusion of controls, I’m able to better appreciate the moments as they occur instead of continually comparing them to what happened in my head. Echoing yesterday’s prompt – maybe surprises are signposts for attachment.
Do you like surprises or not? Why?
I thought I had grown out of my list-making ways. Then I started thumbing through my notebook.
My daily, weekly and monthly bullet journal lists.
Ideas to streamline my evening transition from work to home.
Christmas presents to buy.
End of year donations.
Dreaming and scheming for 2016.
Things to do before the end of 2015.
Christmas / advent activities.
Christmas card addresses.
Brain dump planning for 2016.
My 16 in ’16 list.
Proposed 2016 journal structure.
30 Simple Ways to Care for Yourself Over the Holidays.
My work project notes.
December Reflections prompt list.
Then I started thinking about my digital lists.
Goodreads Read / To Read Books.
Amazon wish list.
All the Pinterest boards.
That’s a lot of ink and electrons spilled to organize my thoughts and my ideas and my life. They keep me on track, let me offload mental tasking onto a hard format. Sometimes they act as a sounding board or a vision board for contemplation. They document my history and provide a roadmap for the future.
But they aren’t prayers.
Prayers don’t do anything. Prayers might make you feel better, but they are only words spoken to the air. There is no greater force out there granting my pleas to find my car keys while ignoring a desperate Syrian mother crying out on behalf of her children.
Prayer is capricious, making you feel like you are doing something while taking no action. I don’t need any more empty promises in my life. I need action and motion and progress. Meditation, focusing attention, those I understand. But praying and hoping that it does something? I’m out.
30 days. In not quite 8 years, I’ve never completed an entire NaBloPoMo before. I’m rather pleased with myself for following all the way through with it.
Tomorrow starts December, and with it comes Reverb with Kat McNally and December Reflections with Susannah Conway. I invite you to come along with me as I try to continue keeping up with my daily posting for the next month.
And now, bedtime. I ran a 5k after work and all that runner’s high has worn off and I’m exhausted. See y’all on the flip side!
There’s a now-cold cup of coffee buried somewhere in the explosion of bubble wrap and crumpled paper that came from me pulling out Christmas decorations. I’m almost done with the decorations that have to be put up without small people, and then tomorrow night we will decorate the tree together. There’s just something about having colored lights and glitter sparkles all over the house that makes it REALLY feel like Christmas is here.
Between the music and the lighting and the arranging of sparkly things, I realized that I am much more relaxed and happy doing this alone rather than with the kids underfoot. They stress me out, especially when we are working on an activity that has emotional meaning to me. Decorating for Christmas is such an important moment for me every year – I look forward to it, and I hate taking everything down at the end of the month. There is a lot of happiness, and sadness too, locked into all these baubles that I am pulling out of the giant box. Everything I touch has a moment, a person, a feeling attached to it. And putting those tangible items out into view brings up all those feelings, and I have to work through them as I go.
I learned quite a while back that I am a worse parent when I am tired or hungry or not in control of my own emotions. I don’t have deep reserves to pull on when the kids start in with the fighting and the need-need-need. I know that it’s better for me to get the bulk of this out of the way alone tonight so that I can limit how much work I have to go through with them tomorrow. If I could deal with them one at a time, I think I would be okay. But they have NO LIMIT to their intrusive nosiness for what their siblings are doing, and I will have all three underfoot the whole time. They are so incredibly jealous of each other getting more of my time than they do, and I don’t know what to do with it. I end up sending all of them to bed, because I would rather deal with none of them than hear them continually bicker. It’s a recipe for disaster – me emotional and them strung out on holiday excitement and new pretties.
*I wonder sometimes how my mother did it. There’s a large gap between me and my siblings, but they are just over a year apart. And god we fought. I did NOT do well with the transition from “only child” to “oldest of three” in barely a year. My sister and I get along now, but that’s only been within the last few years when she graduated from college herself. My brother doesn’t seem to care for either of us, and neither of us push the issue. It’s all our faults, I guess.
*Footnote: This NaBloPoMo could be subtitled “All the Family Dysfunction” at this point.
How do you handle Christmas/holiday/special event stresses? So much of it is emotional and environmental and gets pushed on us whether we want it or not. Do you fight back or run away?
Surprisingly, I am almost done with Christmas shopping. We ended up not swapping gifts except for the kids this year, which cut my list down by half. But we don’t want or need anything, and neither does anyone else, and we all decided it was better to forgo wasting money and time and angst on a pile of stuff for stuff’s sake.
It feels a little weird not having a big pile wrapped up under the tree, but only because we’ve just always had that. As long as the kids feel content on Christmas morning, that’s all I’m really shooting for.
I’m more sad, really, that our extended family tradition is not going to happen. Scheduling and a healthy dose of resentment mean that we won’t see a group of people like we normally do on Christmas day. We are trying to decide whether to travel to see other family instead (blegh) or just to stay home by ourselves (also kind of blegh).
Why does family have to be so hard? Why can’t we all just get over ourselves and love each other and not be such self-absorbed jerks, at least for one day of the year?
Does everyone have a dysfunctiomal family? I imagine there must be some normal ones out there, but everyone I know claims to have problems.
For example, after Thanksgiving dinner last night with M’s family, he has already sworn that we won’t host next year. His dad decided to go pre-Black-Friday shopping instead of eating with us, and his sister bailed early before we even cut the pie. After spending two days cooking and getting ready, my boy is livid.
My family is a little better – we fall more on the “odd duckling” end of the spectrum than the “pile of jerks” end. My brother, who has never lived outside of Alabama, now speaks with a British accent (to my parents even) and my father is investing my inheritance in a collection of bench vises. But at least they are nice about it :)
It makes me wonder what our kids are going to think of us, and of each other, one day.