Sometimes it’s fun to look backwards purely for the amusement of gauging what your reaction would have been, 20 years in the past, if you had been given information about your present situation.
“What on earth?”
“I’d never do that.”
“I can’t do that!”
“I can’t believe that!” would be among the reactions I would probably have had then if you had told me with certainty that I would be doing certain things in my future.
Growing up in the west and not a particular fan of sticky heat, Florida is not a state that I would have thought I’d prefer as a relaxation destination.
However, starting in April 2008, we have gone to a lovely beach in the panhandle. It’s not touristy and built up and there is a beautiful state park there. The beaches are not remotely busy and there is so much wildlife we see something new every time we go. We go in early spring, so it is still comfortable. And there are hot showers and electricity so I can have a fan on the rare days when it really does get hot and not just warm. So, I’ve now been to a place repeatedly, that wasn’t even on my radar as a destination ten years ago. And I’m so glad.
Same way with parenthood.
If a seer could tell you in advance, you will have x number of kids with x and y problems and you will homeschool every single one of them through high school graduation, you would run screaming into the night.
Or just give up entirely on the whole idea of having children. I know I would have.
“That’s way more than I can handle. I”m a coward (still am) and I know I cannot do that. That is some other woman you’re thinking of.”
But thankfully, we don’t get a preview. We just get to live it — and it is just one day at a time.
Or “one step at a time,” my favorite helpful life saying that my oldest son hates.
It may be annoying but I still think it’s true. And thank heavens for that.
What is with this re-entry thing? It hit me Monday morning, first thing, and it almost makes me wish I hadn’t gone on a vacation.
I know it isn’t just me, because while on my vacation I talked with a mother of 9 about this very thing. The routine, the stress, the feeling that gee I should be rested and refreshed, but why am I just so darn crabby now that I am back home?
It was a very peaceful vacation also. It was camping, which involves a certain amount of work that you don’t have at home, but it’s all basic, physical stuff, that is great because it empties my mind of any worries back home. I usually find it difficult to follow an intellectual thread to its conclusion when I am camping.
Need I say, I love that. It’s a really nice change from normal life.
So we ate, we went out to the beach, we hung out with friends, roasted s’mores, beached, slept, napped, rested, ate, and repeated. Not too stressful.
So I know I didn’t overdo it.
And all I had to do the last two days were 1. ride back and 2. make dinner and 3. help set up and break camp. Easy.
Why am I so tired and crabby this week? Did I do something wrong?
What can I do differently?
I’m lying down each day for a while. I’m not doing anything extra that we don’t normally do.
And then there is the usual question I keep asking, each morning, just like I always do after returning from a trip. (And just as regularly, I forget before I go that this annoying phase will occur when I get back.)
The question is….why do I feel so crabby?
I suspect I only have another couple of days and we’ll be okay again. Just wish I could skip the whole re-entry transition.
I think a week at the beach would be just the ticket, right about now.
Anyone who’s under 40 should definitely read this. Maybe even under 35.
I have a few observations that might be helpful to you as you get older.
The rules change as you get older, and although it might not have done me any good, I wish someone told me these things. Here’s what I have noticed.
1. In any group social setting, assume that, if you are older than the people around you, they expect you to initiate the conversation. This applies whether you have never met them or whether you already know them. So it wouldn’t hurt to stop worrying about whether anyone is noticing you, and notice them by saying hello, smiling, or whatever comes to mind.
2. People will also assume that, because you are older, you are wiser. You know things they don’t know. This is, I suppose, true. A practical application is that they think you already know things, already have friends, already made it through that problem or situation, and they won’t realize you may be just as lost as they are, just as in need of friendship as they are, just as in need of wisdom for the next life event as they are. They will most likely look up to you for what you have accomplished and assume that it was some special knowledge that got you there.
3. Be OK with the fact that you will not be noticed for your accomplishments, your looks (because you probably don’t have those any more), your hipness (because you aren’t) or your cuteness. And if like me you have been a big pea in a small pod most of your life, realize that will change. All you’re experiencing is what other people live every day. You don’t need other people to ask you how you are, what you think, or what is new in your life, as much as it may feel that you need that. God will provide exactly what you need, and his attention and regard is yours, all the time. You have the opportunity to really get to know the people around you, by initiating contact with them and listening to how they are doing and where they are in their lives. You have something they don’t: experience. Let them benefit from it.
Acceptance of your new role and position is a hard change, but it’s your best option. I have wasted too much time analyzing what is different now, what am I doing to put people off, why are people here less friendly than everywhere else I have ever lived, and all of those questions have not really gotten me anywhere. What I want is to go with what is, and be content.
I hope that for you forewarned will be forearmed. Just go with it. It will be different, but different is not necessarily bad. (Yes, I know it’s scary, but repeat with me while I keep repeating to myself: different is not necessarily bad.) Hard, yes. Different, yes. New, yes. Feels odd, yes. All that is true. But I am confident that there is a divine purpose to go along with the new reality.
And hey, being perceived as an expert is part of your new reality. And I like that.
You probably have seen the quote. I did around the time I was first pregnant, 19-some years ago.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone gets the credit for putting this into words, and maybe it’s what I deal with, but I don’t think so, close though it comes.
Of course, yes, this is true, if it means that what is most dear to me is not mine and cannot be kept safe. Can’t argue with that.
However, for me right now, one of the hardest things about being a parent, and one that I don’t remember anybody mentioning to me before I had children, is this.
I want so much for my children to get what they want, that sometimes it gives me pain, emotional and physical. When contemplating longings my children have, my chest literally hurts.
Now please tell me I’m not the only parent who experiences this. I really hate it, because I know well enough that reality is we cannot make things the way our kids want, we can’t keep them happy, we can’t smooth their paths through life. It’s impossible and that’s the way it should be.
And it’s not that I don’t want my child to be unhappy because it’s unpleasant for me, although certainly there was a time when that was most of what I was about when I was trying to help them: avoiding the meltdown, the scene and the stress. It’s definitely more fun when your kids are not unhappy.
And it’s not that I want them to have things they want that aren’t good or safe. I have no difficulty ignoring what’s simple foolishness. But that doesn’t really happen that often.
Nope, this is different. This is really seeing who they are, and where they want to go in their lives, and agreeing with them in heart, mind, and spirit, that their desired path would be a great and wonderful thing.
And knowing that as much as I want it, my wanting won’t make it happen.
And I would give up quite a few wishes of my heart, vacations, new furniture, you name it, doggone it a limb or an organ! just so that child could have what he wants.
Nope, can’t be done.
I think I’m not the only one who knows this situation. When I was 10 years old we had a bazaar for Halloween in the school gym. My mom dressed up as a gypsy and was in charge of the wheel of fortune. There were little prizes to be won when the wheel stopped on the number you guessed. Somehow I got my heart set on this little transparent cat figurine. I was so disappointed when the wheel went past my spot. Bad place for my mom. I don’t remember begging, although it’s certainly possible, but a few minutes later she gave the thing to me on the sly.
Looking back on that event, I now understand the thoughts and emotions driving that small act of illegality.
You want your kid to have what she wants. I guess that’s a natural part of mothering. But it’s one I certainly have to moderate.
I can intellectually align myself with this reality.
But the heart sure has a hard time keeping up.
Today I will have absolutely nothing to say, in solidarity with individuals like myself who live in Turkey and thus are not allowed to blog on a WordPress site.
So — silence.
Mesmerizing. Peaceful. Flickering. Colorful.
I wish I could come up with some more words that would really do a warm fire justice. I built one last night as the temperature dropped all day, and by evening I wanted to enjoy the delights of laying on the tinder and logs just so, lighting the newspaper, and watching trickles of orange travel upward.
What is it about fire that is so entrancing?
I could sit and look at the interplay of orange, yellow, blue and sometimes green flame, and hot orange and russet glowing coals all evening, and be perfectly happy.
When I’m watching the fire my brain disconnects from the current projects and stress. I feel peaceful. I am pulled into an eternal place where I’m at rest and nothing is changing. I don’t know about you, but some part of me believes when next to a fire, that the present moment will not ever end, even though the rest of me knows no moment does that.
It’s interesting to think that this sensation is one that human beings have been experiencing for a long time. If the theory of the collective unconscious is correct, this experience might even partly be driven by memories of my ancestors.
But why is it that a visual experience that seems timeless, is in fact completely transient?
A fire by definition is entropy, matter and substance becoming more dispersed, not less. How can something that will burn out that very night before I go to bed put me in a place that will never burn out?
That’s how long it took.
I finished a great week last night. Somehow, despite my efforts to have social occasions spread throughout the weeks and months, I had five get-togethers with important people in the last seven days. It made an extremely enjoyable week for me, however, and since we were on winter break, I was doubly able to enjoy it.
In fact it was probably the nicest basic week that I’ve had since we moved here in 2006.
Last summer I realized that I was no longer lost when trying to get somewhere, no longer at loose ends either at church or in general as far as picking up conversations and seeing friends. Sure there are always slow times, but something was different.
I know how to cut through neighborhoods and take the short cuts. I know that if I cut through on English Station, I’ll end up at Shelbyville Road. I have an intuitive sense of which way to go in the city, that is actually right, thankfully.
And while I don’t usually see that many friends in a week, and I don’t get to see them often, due to living the country life which means that my social interactions are of the Pioneer Woman Quilting Bee frequency, I do have friends that I see on a regular basis and not only that, friends with whom I have actual history.
That’s it then, many of them are no longer new friends.
And there are things about the city that I want to share with people who come to visit. So that means that finally, after seven years, this place finally feels like home.
And I’m thinking, doggone it, it took long enough!
I had no idea when we moved here that it would be like that. I’m an expert mover and I know how to make friends, so I assumed that, after a year or two of basic effort, we would have a network of friends and feel like we belonged.
But that did not happen.
I’ve given that situation way more thought than it deserves and still don’t really have an answer beyond a few thoughts. I mainly think that our culture has become much more disconnected and busy and fragmented during the 90s and early 200os than I realized. So that by the time we moved, after twelve years in one county, things were truly really different, and I was not prepared for the sheer amount of effort and work it takes to develop one single ongoing friendship.
So, 7 years.
It wasn’t ideal, but I certainly have a high level of appreciation for the friends I now have.