Round about 4:30 this afternoon, I started to feel quite on the mend. My babysitter had arrived several hours before, and I’d immediately jumped into bed and fallen asleep as she and O started playing. After I woke, I looked around my room which was in some sort of terrifying state and then organized what I could while in a seated position: folding not a few loads of laundry, finally (successfully!) throwing away half the publications that were taunting me from their “will you ever read me?” piles. I swear y’all, there is some power in writing things down. It’s like the universe now holds you accountable. As you might recall, just last night I pondered to you about my complete inability to winnow through my stacks. And then today, done! Pow!
I’ve heard this directive from two people now: my friend, Caroline, and acclaimed cultural/food/cookbook writer, Monica Bhide (whom I was lucky to hear speak and inspire at last weekend’s Eat, Write Retreat). Write down your goals, what you hope and want to accomplish, and in doing so, you keep tabs on, inspire and challenge yourself. When Caroline suggested last fall that I do this on behalf of Em-i-lis, I wrote down 4 goals that seemed of various shades of possibility. Right before my family and I left for Italy in late March, I crossed #4 off the list. Did it feel good? It felt better than that, and I’m looking forward to thinking about what might constitute my next list of aspirations.
Last weekend, Monica took it a step further and pushed us to distill down to a single word, the voice/identity/sense-of-self we want to best define our work, and then assess whether or not our work and our word were complementary or missing one another. As the conference was geared towards bloggers, we were, unsurprisingly, focused on our blogs, but you could easily apply this exercise to any facet of life. My word is authentic which is what I feel (hope!) resonates throughout Em-i-lis. No bullshit, no fakiness, just honest thoughts on motherhood, things political, and loads of good food.
You might already know how much I value openness and honesty, and perhaps this is why it didn’t take me too terribly long to decide on my word. It did take me years to really get to know myself, years more to pare away the layers of identity I’d accrued but no longer wanted or which never or no longer fit. The result has been a real sense-of-self, an honest appraisal and knowledge of who I am at my innermost core. As is most all serious growth, this introduction to ME was painful at times, with loss and failure and disappointment and rejection all swirling around just daring me to stay strong and true to what I felt I believed and wanted. Other moments were blissful or terrifying or thrilling- aha! Finally! Yes! And today, that I can say I think I really know myself -with all the weaknesses and foibles and strengths and hopes and still-to-dos therein- is one of the things about which I feel most grateful. It wouldn’t have been possible without asking and answering difficult questions and it won’t continue to be thus unless I keep challenging myself.
Which brings up another sense of gratitude I feel today: a profound sense of fortune for the children I am privileged to be raising. Some of my greatest growth has come in the crucible of parenthood; its challenges bring most of us to our knees on a regular basis. It is damn difficult to base your plan for facilitating the growth of totally dependent, relatively uncivilized beings into functional, happy, productive adults on your gut instincts and some reading you might have done while pregnant. Raising kids is like trying to play Quidditch while blind, deaf and mute. Good luck catching the golden snitch, folks.
Yet for those of us lucky enough to get through each day with no major injury, insult or issue, you realize that as much as you might be teaching your little ones, they are even more so teaching you. The unconditional love a child has for his mother regardless of how bad her (my) hair looks and breath smells and how sorry she (I) is at making up stories on the fly, takes my breath away at times. We could all learn from this utter lack of care about another’s appearance, the generosity towards our weaknesses they often extend. If you weren’t already, you will probably become infinitely more patient (or need to jump aboard the anti-anxiety medication train) and totally inured to poop/pee/boogers and so forth. You’ll become an ace negotiator (or a complete pushover; I opt for the former, thank you!) and creative at all manner of distraction. Your thoughts about a good night of sleep will change dramatically and you might, during all this, become infinitely kinder to yourself even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
About 5p, I felt like my nausea was at bay enough that I just might take myself out for a pedicure (another thing for which I am enormously grateful today). Traffic was the pits on the way home, and when I got here, both boys were fast asleep. When they sleep, they sleep like mummified trees, so going in and hugging, kissing, cooing over them and fixing their blankets is not a risk. That really makes the whole experience even more enjoyable! Anyway, Jack was in his regular position: white polar bear (once named Princess; now named Polar Bear) laying atop him, face to face, quilt pulled up chest-high (this seems claustrophobic to me, but who am I to judge). And Oliver in his: tucked into the corner of his crib he calls “my special sleep spot” and from which he rarely moves, fingers often wrapped around “my ties”, the ties clasping the bumper to the crib rails.
And I just felt my heart pound with pride and joy and love for these precious little boys who often make me nuts but who just as often make me laugh and smile. Through them and my dear husband (huge feeling of gratitude for that guy), I have come into my own, a late bloomer who long sought the kind of confidence that comes through self-knowledge and who now has a real sense of what gets me up in the morning; I’m lucky to have the latter in spades!
Thanks for reading.