Losing Suction

It’s been a rough few days (weeks?).  I wish there was a good reason why – that might make it better, or understandable anyway – but there’s not.  I’m just miserable for no good reason.  Irritable because I have angst.  Angst-ridden because I have hormones and a crippling sense of self-awareness? (Thank you, Virgo)

There have been days I have camped out with my laptop for hours.  Stared out the window waiting for the light to change.  Held myself because it was the only thing to do.

And then the strains of PBS children’s programming came to me.

The minutes and hours marked by Arthur and Thomas, Maya and Miguel rather than numbers.

And I knew I should move.  I knew I should engage.  I should scoop up that little wonder of a child and take her out into the world.

One day, we did.  We traipsed around the yard, trekked to the mailbox, tried to imagine the garden in full bloom.  But the mailbox was empty and spring was still a ways off.

Yesterday, we shut off all electronic devices and ate lunch together.  We sat side by side, but I buried my nose in some manner of printed matter.

Today, we compared notes on the types of yogurt we ate; she turning her nose up at my Greek with honey, me trying to convince her she ate blue banana.  green guava.  purple passion.

The silly word games I remember playing with my first baby when I was a first time mama.

Learning colors through the culinary.

Exploring math while masticating.

And for the first time in a long time, my sense memory elicited a positive response. Bubbles of laughter reminding  me that I know how to do this.  I know how to make it fun.  I know how to enjoy it.

All it takes to make it enjoyable is a little more effort.  An invitation to join me as I move about my day.  A question here, a comment there.  Inclusion.  When all I’ve been is insular.

 

I’ve so needed space for me, I’ve been pulling back.  But all I’ve done is created a vacuum, a void they notice and try all the more vehemently to cross.  Perhaps if I reach across the void, giving them what they need, I will get what I want.

Joy and peace of mind.

Being able to lay my head on the pillow at night knowing I’ve done my best and not feeling guilty at the time I set aside for myself.

There’s no sense doing a job you hate.  And there’s no reason to make mothering more onerous than it is.  That wouldn’t just create a vacuum; that would suck.

My Lifesaver

“I save you.”

My two-year-old daughter said this to me one morning as I dressed her.  She reached up from the changing table and grasped my arm, hugging me to her.

“You save me?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said, a smile lighting her sweet little face.

She’s been playing games of chase, tag, and intrigue with her older sisters, which is no doubt where this line came from, as they ran from imagined assailants.  But these three small words held a much deeper meaning for me.

If it weren’t for Angela’s love – and my love for Angela – I might not have survived the three years that have elapsed since the news of her coming.

I read recently that humans have an evolutionary predisposition to always think the worst.  If we did not anticipate danger, we would get eaten by the wooly mammoth hanging around the corner.  If we didn’t worry constantly about starvation, we wouldn’t feel compelled to gather berries for the coming winter.  If it were always sunshine and roses, the species as we know it would not exist.

However, in the modern age, where thankfully we do not have to parry with wooly mammoth, this predisposition makes living a life of gratitude really hard.  Being genetically wired to pay attention to the negative, the positives of our life fade into the background without a concerted effort on our part.

And, sadly, I can say that I let that happen throughout my pregnancy and postpartum with Angela.  Letting the blessing of a child be outweighed by the unexpected timing of it.  Letting myself be buried by the drudgery of day-to-day rather than being uplifted by the wonder in her eyes.  Letting myself founder instead of accepting the help I needed.

There were times when I could pull those positives back into the foreground.  Little arms wrapped tightly around my neck.  Sitting in the living room, surrounded by my husband and the girls.  Watching the three of them splash in the bathtub.  I even started a gratitude journal as a concrete reminder of the blessings all around me on a daily basis, especially helpful on those days when the clouds made it impossible to see them.

It was through the filter of Angela’s unconditional love that I began to see the world differently.

If at the end of the day, chaos ruled, but our kids were safe and happy, all was right with the world.  If things didn’t go according to plan, maybe that was because God had a better one.  And if we weren’t happy, maybe that meant we were supposed to be doing something different anyway.

I decided to do a lot of things differently.  Acutely aware that there were some things in life that would choose me with no regard to my misery, I decided to only choose things that would bring me joy.  I found myself contemplating risks I never would have taken pre-partum.  With newly opened eyes, there were new possibilities.

It was Angela who gave me eyes to see.  She gave me back my life.  If her birth – and the resulting struggles – hadn’t happened, my serious examination of my life and place in this world wouldn’t have happened.  And every time I got lost or distracted by the discouraging things around me, her two little arms around my neck reminded me to come back to center – to the heart of what truly matters.

Angela returned the wonder to my eyes.  Watching her find her way in the world inspired me to find mine.  She is the ultimate gift of love – and isn’t that the greatest blessing of all?

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