The Push and Pull of Motherhood

It all starts with a push.  It is through a woman’s labor, a forceful push, that a baby – and her mother – is birthed.

From that point on, it is all about pulling.  A woman, now a mother, pulled in eight thousand different directions a day.  Literally, she is – calls for food, cries for comfort – but that’s not even of what I speak.  I’m speaking of expectation vs. reality; perfection vs. attainability; manic striving vs. sanity.

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From that first push, and from that first pull forward, the unwitting conditioning of our ideas and carrying out of motherhood shape our every decision, every day, our very psyches.

The other day, I kicked my kids out of the kitchen while I made the cupcakes they requested for Easter.  My second oldest had requested red velvet, which we’d never made before.  Why, suddenly, did she want this new and different flavor?  Could we not keep it simple, especially surrounding a busy holiday?  But then, I could’ve kept it simple by redirecting her to a different flavor or even buying a ready-made mix.  Instead, I half-kiddingly offered the metaphor of red for Christ’s blood.  She was sold.  And I began research on homemade recipes with less artificial ingredients than the mixes.  Again, could’ve kept this simple, but looked for the simplest one I could find that was sort of in line with the husband’s and my new trying-to-be-healthy-ish regimen.

 

That morning, the second oldest and I participated in an impromptu Girl Scout cookie booth.  I came home to prep appetizers for a dinner party at a friends’ that night.  Then I set in on the cupcakes.  The cupcake-requester was nowhere to be found, most likely buried eyeball-deep in her iPad after a morning of social interaction.  Her next youngest sister saw me gathering supplies and asked to help.  At this point, I was up to my eyeballs in a messy kitchen and bad humor.

“NO,” I replied far too emphatically.

When I saw her sad little face, I almost reconsidered, but held my ground, knowing that with limited time and remaining fuse I’d do far more damage than that to her poor little soul.

By way of a conciliatory carrot, I said, “You can help decorate them when they’ve cooled.”

As I prepped the rest of the recipe, I felt guilty.  These were cupcakes for a family celebration of Easter, requested by the kids most excited about the holiday.  Yet, the kid who’d started this whole evolution was MIA and I’d sequestered the rest.  Was I not sucking the joy out of this?  Was it about having a finished batch of red velvet cupcakes or letting my daughters participate in a fun activity?

When describing the frenetic events of the weekend to my therapist today, but before I got the part about my guilt, she congratulated me for sensing my limit and taking steps to keep from flying right over it.  When I told her how I perceived it, she said that I had been well within my rights for self-preservation by prepping the cupcakes myself.  She pointed out that I welcomed them in decorating the cupcakes, which is all kids really want to do anyway.

It did occur to me that, had I removed that fail-safe for myself that day, it wouldn’t have been a June Cleaver moment even if mother and child had made cupcakes together.  It almost certainly would’ve ended badly.  Just the night before, I’d dropped the f-bomb as we all made Resurrection cookies together.  Jesus would’ve been proud.

Looking back, I can see how it would’ve ended.  I would’ve needed multiple ‘come to Jesus’ moments afterwards to recoup.  And yet, the guilt still came in the moment.

And that is the pull modern mothers have.  We have been conditioned to do all manner of June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, Mother Earth type of things for our children, our families – even to the exclusion of our sanity.

Motherhood, parenthood, by its very essence, is sacrifice.  But there is no sense giving all of ourselves if everyone involved is miserable.  Even cupcakes are bitter to the taste buds when made with resentment and frustration.

The journey of motherhood started with a push.  That doesn’t mean we have to be pulled apart from that point forward.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And no, I’m not saying we should push our kids around.  We mustn’t remain static in the face of our conditioning.   There has to be movement both towards our children and our own self care.

After all, my homemade version of red velvet cupcakes were vegan – with store bought cream cheese frosting.

Without Wee, Within

I am very much inside myself lately.

Thinking about what needs to get done,
Worrying about pain and exhaustion,
Waiting for my next chance to lie down

I weigh this alone time
for its relaxation
vs
opportunity to accomplish,
both sans wee ones

Motherhood has brought me to this state
and yet, it’s all in my head.

I struggle and strive to survive
for them
yet yearn for me

.

power_within

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We are Pilgrims on a Journey

As I sat there listening to music being created right before my eyes, manufactured by human hands up on the stage two tent lengths away, it struck me how amazing the moment was. How lucky I was to be alive and experiencing it. A resounding hum roiling behind my breast bone – the hum of music another om of humanity.

And it is no coincidence that the space music swells is the same place that aches with longing for life, the unnamed.

For where there is a lack, there is also largess.

A void with the ability to be filled.

An ebb and flow

A sacred space that the filling and emptying of reminds us of the balance of life.

For every pain, there will be achingly beautiful joy.

For every time we feel bereft, there will be the overwhelming beauty of belonging, of certainty.

Seeing such music flow from the source brings the magic to life even more. It is the shared experience, the affinity between and among all humankind: a common ache for the sublime, a beatific high when we attain it, and the lonely muddling through when we don’t.

We all are passengers on the same journey, all trying to find our way.

On nights like this, our souls travel together.

"Servant Song" by Richard Gilliard & David Haas

“Servant Song” by Richard Gilliard & David Haas

Amen

How long until the shine wears off? At what point does your blog stop being viable and become a chore? Or does it go through cycles, prone to the whims of your life just as you are?

I remember being upset, maybe even angry, when bloggers I loved decided to throw in the towel because posting and maintaining the blog was taking away from their real writing, their real life. Knowing full well it was what the bloggers needed at the time, I still selfishly didn’t want to let them go.

Then in a post I wrote two weeks ago, the last time I posted on a Thursday, I lamented the pull of personal writing vs. blog writing. That I was tapped out once I attended to one, with no inspiration left for the other. I could feel the burn. I understood the reasoning of those others I hadn’t wanted to take a hiatus.

Plus, with life being life – where the living of it gets in the way of, you know, living it – uninterrupted time to sit and think and create is at a premium. Usually I don’t get past ‘sit’ without wanting to close my eyes.

I know, lots of whining, when I could have been actually creating – and no, this is not my blosignation. I am nothing if not a stubborn mule. I have set my mind to a blog schedule and I will get back on it, come hell or high stress levels.

As always, it’s a matter of finding that sweet spot, that slice of solitude and peace – where words come easily and self-expression is crystal clear and empowering. Can I get an AMEN?

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Big T-chart in the Sky

There is so much push and pull, pro and con about everything.  

Wandering around my house last night, I thought how much easier it will be to keep the house free of kid schmagma now that two out of three will be at school everyday.  Not bad 😉

Yet, that was after the recovery from my heart-in-throat entry at the bus stop that afternoon.  Checking out at a store twenty minutes from our house took fifteen minutes (think chicken broth carton sliced by razor leaking all over pants to be purchased at bottom of cart – and that was before the coupon fiasco).  I got stuck behind another bus on the way to meeting my own children’s.  Luckily those little kindergarteners boarding the bus after their first day of school took awhile getting sussed up, which bought me four extra minutes.  Two of which I sorely needed.  I said hello to my already waiting neighbors by way of, “I hate this.  I liked when all three of them were with me all the time and I knew they were safe, I was responsible for them.”  

Which is really just another way of saying: “I can’t prioritize and hate when someone else is in control.”

Ah, but there’s the rub.

Part of me rejoices in the quiet calm that comes with sending them off to school.  Another part of me misses having that easy breezy schedule.  Part of me (specifically the migraine-sensing one) is glad to have the on-going scream and sumo matches done for the season.  Another part of me is bummed the other two aren’t around to play with their little sister.  I can save on grocery delivery fees now that I can go to the market without plucking my eyes out – as I would do bringing all three along.  I can’t keep up our weekly midday library dates.  

I realize why it’s always been so hard for me to make a decision even when I’ve filled out the pro/con t-chart my father first sketched for me so many years ago.  It’s almost always going to be a near-equal amount of items on each side.  The trick is how much each item weighs in its importance to you.  

Alas, I do not have the choice whether to send my kids to school or not (and, no, I will not homeschool for all you smart alecks thinking of suggesting it.  Their socialization with peers is much more valuable than the sailorspeak that would bring out in me).  I cannot weigh the pros and cons of a decision not mine to make.  I can only shift things around, add, subtract, and try for the ever elusive balance hovering somewhere around the center line of that t-chart in the sky.  

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One Blessed Moment

 

A mail truck swinging in ahead of you as you swoop down a hill.

A child vomiting on you as you’re about to walk out the door.

Sometimes the universe conspires not against you, but for you.

Saving you from the speeding ticket that lay in wait just beyond the mail truck.

Forcing you to stay home and not only soothe your child, but cleanse yourself of the worries of the day.

When your world is spinning at an alarming rate, there is no room for error.

But certain things cannot be ignored;

Course must be altered –

 

if only for one blessed moment.right on time delivery

 

Hold on Loosely

I dropped some balls.

Not all of them. In fact, there were some added ones more involved than the usual ones. I’ve been getting a lot accomplished, doing a lot. But it’s hard to see the progress when some of the more essential tasks have fallen by the wayside.

Sleep. Sinus health. Writing. Clean dishes.

It seems like the mania that accompanies summer weekends has followed me into fall and beyond. And chock full days are not conducive to sleep, when late nights are the only chance for a quiet respite. And hay fever season compounded by a deviated septum and lack of rest, forcing of fluids, and neti-pot usage is just nasty.

The treadmill I’m on seems to have unrolled and stretched to the horizon like a ribbon of roadway.

I need to say no. I need to relax. I need to prioritize.

But, aside from the mundane daily requirements, a lot of what we’ve been doing is fun.

I was bone-tired by the end of last week and the attendant bunkbed mania that ensued. And I’m still digging out of the misplaced objects and displaced duties that occurred as a result. My chi is not where it needs to be. And it snowed for the first time today and my husband is leaving for a business trip. And I’m a worry-wort who does not take things one at a time.

But I stayed in my pjs till early afternoon yesterday and wrote an exciting short story in its entirety. I’m catching up on laundry and the pile of dishes in the sink is not as high as it was. Only one half of throat hurts now and I’m not drowning in mucus. My daughters are thrilled with their three-quarters of the way done big top bedroom. And tight squeezes from beloved family members feel even better when your body is battered and broken.

After all, the object of juggling is not to hold all the balls at the same time, but to rotate and transfer them, holding each one only lightly at a time

Ain’t Got Time to Die

Hello, my name is Jennifer.  And I have a problem with mindfulness.

 

In the quest to be mindful, I’m consumed by it.  I’m so busy thinking about it, I don’t think I can achieve it.  Two days ago, I wrote about the miniscule moments that eat up our day; how we don’t live because we’re completing chores and tasks that never end, but we keep trying to complete them anyway.  True.  But people like me never set boundaries, a point when reached, regardless of completion or ‘im’, I stop and begin to relax, enjoy.

 

Julie Metz also offered me another perspective in her book, Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

“Henry’s [Metz’ husband] idea of a perfect day was an action-packed race from waking to sleeping.  He was afraid of the tedium of everyday life, with its chores and routines.  Every real day, however, includes a portion of boredom.

I have struggled to resolve my own boredom through frantic mental activity or shoe shopping.  In rare, blessed moments, I have understood that, with patience, boredom can lead to stillness and calm.  And in calm, I can experience a meditation where I connect with my true self.  I can greet myself with kindness, before I return to my work, parenting, and chores.  These uncharted moments, whenever they happen, are as close as I have come to heaven.

Henry fought off every meeting with his true self, with all its flaws, contradictions, and talents.”

 

Am I, by not embracing the boredom and tedium, not meeting with my own true self?  By mocking the replacing of the toilet paper roll, et al, am I missing out on whole chunks of my life?  Mini-mental vacations I can take to realize, wonder, and reflect?

 

I can’t tell you the last time I was bored – unless you count depressive states when nothing is appealing.  I often joke that I’d love to be bored, to have the opportunity to do nothing.  Really, we can’t do something with our lives unless with take time to do nothing periodically. Am I physically and mentally capable of that?

 

The refrain of a song I heard long ago fills my head as I write this [My subconscious speaking or another sign that I can’t focus on one thing at a time ;-)] –  “Ain’t Got Time to Die,” a Negro Spiritual I first heard sung by Terras Irradiant, a Christian acapella group from Amherst College.

 

Lord, I keep so busy praisin’ my Jesus

Keep so busy praisin’ my Jesus

Keep so busy praisin’ my Jesus

Ain’t got time to die.

 

I am so busy, but I think I’m filling my time with the wrong sorts of things.  Or at least the balance is off.  Focusing on the spiritual would make the crazy press of days fall away or at least lessen.  The hectic pace would slacken, or wouldn’t bother me so much with moments of mindfulness to bring me back to center.  My center as it relates to the greater world around me, my place in this great sweep of time and humanity called life.

 

How’s that for some high falutin’ thinking?

 

Now enough thinking, just be.

 

(Think I can follow my own advice!?)

 

(Don’t answer that!)

 

The Moment

I’ve been trying.

I’ve set aside novels (temporarily) for the beautifully poetic spiritual tome I was too young to read the first time around.

I’ve felt the wideness of my collarbones and my elbows hanging directly below my shoulders.  I felt my head float above my neck and my thoughts detach.

I’ve felt the taut string of the universe pulling me forward, rushing past the green leaves of trees, toward the white billowy clouds against the brilliant blue sky.

I’ve heard the hypnotic rhythm of the acoustic guitar goading me on.

I’ve tried to speak new words rather than the tired routine trod into my brain.

I'm trying to embrace my monkey mind

I’m trying to embrace my monkey mind

I feel the vacillation.

Between the old and new, the positive and the negative, the healthy and the easy monotony.

It always seems to be one or the other.  Never both.  Never a balance.

Or maybe it is both at the same time.

Maybe it is everything all at once and I can’t be one thing at one time and something different at another.

The older you get, the more you carry with you.

It’s a special moment when you can set it all down and float freely through the universe – if only for a moment.

Pieces of Me

Walking across the quad of the campus of my alma mater yesterday, where I’m taking a weeklong institute on writing, my feet felt tipped.  No, not tipsy, but tipped, as in leaning outward.  Now as someone who is a diagnosed overpronator, this is not a sensation I am used to.  Must just be because I haven’t worn these sandals in awhile, I thought.

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When I reached the classroom, I felt my foot roll and thought I’d stepped on something.  I bent my leg a la checking for dog poo and saw that the rubber sole of my sandal had started to disintegrate.  What I’d stepped on was a small wedge of the one that had made up the bottom of my shoe.  As the day wore on, a pile of rolled-up rubber collected under my chair and a Hansel and Gretel crumb trail of what had worked itself off in the hallway led me to class this morning.

I was pissed.  I had paid good money for these brand-name sensible shoes.  My husband did point out that I most likely bought them when expecting my first child about nine years ago, but still.  My father still has shoes he wore when I was a babe.  What the heck!

Shoe travesty aside, it was disorienting to find pieces of me scattered all around the various paths I’d taken yesterday – and left behind unbeknownst to me.

But then, looking back over this entire week, that seems de rigueur.

The first time I sat down to write this, I shut the door.  My now-six year old opened it and asked if she could rest while I wrote.  Fine.  But the door stayed open and I could hear the television, computer, and talk radio playing simultaneously downstairs.  Then she started explaining, in great, glorious detail, some drawings she’d done.  Beautiful.  But I can’t form words and listen to them at the same time.  Then my three year-old started a full-on high-pitched fit about the television being shut off for dinner.  Downstairs.  Behind the couch.  Far removed from me and yet still ear shattering.  Then my husband called up the stairs that dinner was ready.

And now this, my second time trying to write it, two daughters camped out in the room until I complained of noise and one went into her room, closing the door behind her in a huff.

I’ve attended class all day each day since Monday, leaving campus each day rife with ideas and inspiration, which I need to shove on the backburner of collecting my kids at various family members’ houses throughout the state, trekking home, figuring out dinner with food I didn’t have time to shop for, hugging and kissing for lost time, trying to relax and catch up on my sleep deficit and finish my homework at the same time.  All three of the kids contracted a stomach bug, which not only made me worry about them, but the various family members who still lovingly offered to take them.

There are pieces of me scattered all over the place.  My house, my car, our other car I had to take when I transported all three children at the same time, my purse, in the mosquito that bit me as I cleaned the puke off the bottom of the car and then flew into the woods by the side of the road, the carpeted hallway of Adams’ Library, the windowless classroom, the roads I’ve rushed down, the hearts of my children, the imagination of my husband, the dreams of my soul.

 

I’m not a crumbly mess, but it’s hard not to feel worn thin.

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