Identity, motherhood

Balance the Equation

I think I know why mothers put themselves last. The one thing they can unequivocally control, with no x-factors or unknown variables, is themselves. In a world of crushing responsibility and swirling chaos – with them at its center – it is easier to remove oneself from the equation than adjust other unwieldy elements to make room for themselves.

When my now six year-old was a SCREECHING toddler-preschooler (and yes, it was in all caps and a continual hybrid of those two phases), many freak shows occurred in the tinny tube of a well-sealed minivan. When we had no choice but to hurtle through the tunnel of terror, my husband would often turn up the volume of the music. With all the children, we’ve always joked that music calms the savage beast, but if that didn’t work, I believe his secondary goal was to at least drown out some of the noise with more pleasant ones. But music – no matter how soothing it was – was just another layer of auditory assault on top of her banshee screams and the increasingly agitated protests of her sisters, who had a front row seat in the fallout zone. At some point, all the windows would be shooshed open, adding full-blast high-velocity wind to the affront. With something in my head about to twist in upon itself and either roll out my ears or burst out my forehead, I would lean forward and snap off the radio. Which inevitably would anger my already wound-tight husband at the wheel. I think his reasoning was to have some say in the cacophony, a pleasant personal addition to counteract all the negative auditory input over which we had no control. Mine was: the one thing I have control over and can remove from the untenable equation needs to be gone before I go out of my ever-living mind.

And that is much how I’ve operated these last several years. In the midst of pick-ups and drop-offs, errands to run and food to buy, kids who don’t nap and others who stay up too late – it was easier not to dream. It was easier to not start a project than be interrupted and watch it languish in the corner for months, years. It was easier to not even entertain the thought than watch it drift away on a sea of to-dos on scraps of paper.

It was certainly easier than fighting.

The amount of fighting it takes for modern mothers to get validation not awash in guilt and judgement is ridiculous. Unconscionable. Borderline criminal.

I’ve been trying to leave that combative quality out of my more recent mathematics. For I feel it just feeds into the idea that I’m doing something abnormal.

I want feeding my true authentic self to be as natural as the air I breathe, we all breathe.

Hopefully not as it’s whooshing past us in an attempt to drown out one (or more) of our screaming offspring.

anxiety, Identity, Living

A Change in Me

I was totally on my game last night.  I mention it because it is so not me.  I was laughing, telling jokes, comfortable, making comments without much worrying about what people would think of me.  In other words, I was my authentic self.  Not insecure, not worried, not painfully self-aware.  And there were times throughout the night when I realized this and took note; not quite like an out-of-body experience watching it from afar, but my insecure or irrational or timid mouse inner self noticed and was pleasantly surprised.  And then I tried to tell her to go away, to enjoy it for what it was worth, to follow this relaxed, uninhibited self however far she would go.  Not to jinx it, second-guess it, scare her away with too many self-checks and ruminations.  And now I think of the Halloween party we went to last Saturday.  My kindergartener was invited to a classmate’s family party.  Their neighbors were there, family members, other classmates and their families.  Walking in to a crowd of ‘strangers’ was a bit daunting, but surprisingly only a little.  A playmate’s mom soon walked up and introduced herself.  I found the host’s mom and introduced myself.  I sought out other classmates’ parents.  I told jokes.  I talked to strangers.  I initiated conversations.  I was so not me.  But then, I said to my husband, I was on my game.  Because that is me – part of me, anyway.  The part that is uninhibited, comfortable in her own skin, totally inhabiting the spacious self that is she.  My authentic self.

Is it this place?  Is it the excuse, the opportunity of a change in place to make things happen, to reinvent myself?   Because I could’ve done all these things in my former home.  But I didn’t.  Was it the memory and residual trauma of postpartum?  Was it the repression of people who knew me from way back when, when I was a certain way?  Was it the familiar that I began to blend into?  I was scared.  I was stuck.  Now I’m free.  I don’t know if it’s the physical space that now surrounds us that is freeing us; the mental space that in turn affords (if you believe if in the elements of Feng Shui); the need to ground ourselves and make connections since we don’t have any.  But life seems to be shaping up.  And me right along with it.

Identity, Living, motherhood

The Alpha and the Omega

There are moments when I catch glimpses of the mother I used to be.  The one I was when I had one baby.  The one I was when I was more frequently in a good mood or less stressed out.  The goofy one who sang silly made-up songs.  The one who danced with a baby on her hip till her legs gave out.  The one who wasn’t so beat down she just tried to get through her day.  The one who could spend time with her children rather than refereeing them.

I see her in the smiles of my children.  The looks of surprise.  The glances at each other and back at me before cracking up.  The silly giggles that roll from their bellies and out through their lips.

I see myself in the mirror and I see a girl child who somehow ended up in charge of three of her own.  A girl who still sees herself as growing and learning.  A girl who still wonders at the dynamics of her own mother/daughter relationship as she builds ones up with her three.

Will they see me for who I am?  A person, who in motherhood and life, often makes it up as she goes along.  Someone who loves them fiercely, but wonders how she loses herself from time to time.  And who opens her eyes from time to time to see the true incarnation of who she’s supposed to be – to them and herself.

Yes, the image will change.  The lines will deepen, the colors fade.  But it should only be a deepening, not a swallowing, a sinking.  The original image is in there somewhere.  A fire in the eye, a shape, a sparkle of laughter.

How do I flow gracefully into the deep while allowing the light bubbles of my past to filter through?  How do I get from the beginning to the end and honor both all the way through?  How do I reconcile the woman and mother I’ve always wanted to be with the being I’ve become?