Welcome new year

I wasn’t going to write a New Year’s post, but here I am. As I discussed with a friend of mine not too long ago, I feel these last few years have ended with most people not sad to see the year end. There has been a general feeling of “glad that’s over”, but underlying those words is the feeling that maybe all that is behind us. We’ve survived. And with God’s grace we’ll keep surviving. Thriving, even. In this spirit, I’m choosing to focus on the hope that the upcoming year is bound to be better than the last.

If we don’t have hope, we’ve got nothing. There were times these past few months where I felt like I had lost touch with my old friend hope. Dark times. But tonight, by the light of my tree, with my boys sleeping peacefully I am reacquainting myself with her.

I’ve got a lot of intentions for the upcoming year. Shit, I’ve got a lot of intentions for the next few days. Mostly to get through them with a bit of humor and patience and be ready to go back to work with a renewed sense of purpose.

Today, one of my boys presented me with a family portrait he made in school. He portrayed himself and his brother very realistically. He got the cats in there, although he was pretty generous in his rendering of our enormous cat, Golden…perhaps he’s going to lose weight in the new year. Then there was Mom. And Dad.

I wasn’t sure what to say. I was, somewhat embarrassedly, like “who’s that?”

At least we were all smiling in the picture. I’m not sure what is more unrealistic at this point.

It hurt that the one thing my boy so desperately wants is the one thing I really can’t give him.

I did finally ask him what he thought the best part about living with a dad would be. He said having someone there when he got home from school. I pointed out that for the most part, even in families where there are two parents living together, it is not typical to have a parent there when a child comes home from school. At least not in this day and age. Maybe that’s just what I tell myself to make me feel better.

But it did reaffirm for me what I truly want. Especially as the boys get older and need guidance. I want to be there more. I want to be there when they get home from school. I want to help them navigate homework and sports and friends and questions and arguments and everything else. My intention is to figure out how to get there sooner rather than later.

I read something not too long ago about how it may actually be more important for there to be a parent accessible to their teenage children after school hours than for say a young elementary schooler. That there is an added benefit to having that extra supervision, extra accountability for those hours of freedom, extra help choosing how to spend that time.

If I can’t provide the smiling dad in the picture, maybe I can figure out how to be enough. How to be there more. How to be more present than I even am now.

As the boys have grown older, I’ve struggled with balance. I desperately wanted pieces of my life back. Adult pieces that have nothing to do with them. My writing, exercise, my friendships, love, my solitude…and not crammed into the hour between when they go to bed and I do. I wanted those things simultaneously. And I kept thinking– they are 9, 10 years old…they are old enough to take some responsibility for their own activities, time, entertainment. Chores, hygiene, even lunch/snack/sometimes dinner making. I want to raise independent children. They are capable. They don’t need a parent doing everything for them. I can take time for myself and they can deal.

These things are still true. They don’t need a helicopter parent. But they do need a parent who is present, and yes, sometimes present enough for two people. When I became a single parent, I gave up the luxury of being able to just “check out” and let someone else handle it for a while. Fair? Maybe no. But life ain’t fair. I fear I may have swung too far in one direction. Do I have the right to sleep in and let the boys watch TV on the weekend? Yes. But maybe not as often as I do. Maybe they still need mom to sleepily trudge out to the sofa and watch something with them. Or get them involved in something else. Maybe they need a mom who isn’t checking work emails when she gets home or who isn’t so focused on making dinner and getting them to bed so my time can begin that I miss the important stuff.

Every day I strive to be a little better than the day before. That’s all we can do really. But if I were to make a resolution (which I don’t make, but let’s just say) my intention is to let the pendulum swing a little bit back the other way. In their favor. Where my focus is more firmly on them and what they need during this critical time in their lives. God willing, I will have the energy to make the most of the time after they go to bed. If I need to sleep then, well, everything else can wait.

I need to give myself permission to be a mom first. It doesn’t mean I’m not me. I’m there. I’m going to find myself (rather quickly I’m afraid) in a position where these boys are truly going to be independent and out of my grasp. I’m going to have lots of late nights waiting up for them that I can spend as I choose. For now, I need to refocus on them–my babies. I suspect that they may need me just as much now as they did when they were babies and toddlers.

My hope for this new year is that we all feel like we are getting exactly what we need. And that our health and happiness will blossom because of it. I wish that for all of you, too.

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Is it OK to not be OK?

How are you?

Fine. You?

Great.

We have these mini-conversations every day. And it is a standard. For the most part, no one is really inviting you in that moment to discuss your general well-being. It’s the new hello. How are ya? Good! Great. Have a good day.

But what about people you know? People you REALLY know. At what point can you say, you know what- I’m NOT OK. Not even a little bit. Seems to me noone really wants to hear it. And that’s OK, too, because lord knows we all have enough going on.

One of my favorite replies came from one of my grandparents who used to say, “Can’t complain. Who would listen anyway?” I don’t remember which grandparent would say this, maybe they all did. Maybe you just get to that point in your life where you think no one wants to hear your laundry list of Things That Have Gone Wrong Today. And that’s true. No one does. Again, lord knows we have our own sets of crosses to bear. But at what point does not burdening another with our bullshit become holding in things which are actually kind of significant to us? Things that will eat at us from the inside if we don’t let them out.

I was a Facebook “vague book” offender the other day when I posted that my heart was heavy and I urged people to be nice to one another because as the saying goes, we are all fighting battles no one knows about. I received so many lovely and comforting comments and texts. It felt good to know I was supported. But I didn’t necessarily want to get down into the deep and nitty-gritty. And I don’t, on a public blog, want to go there now.

However, I realized today when I let loose my angst on my child that I had been keeping too much bottled inside. It’s not that I don’t talk to people–I do. My mom. Sometimes my sister. I have friends I tell things to piecemeal. But I’ve been known to hold back and sugar coat. Because who really wants to hear that I’m hanging by a slender thread of sanity? That even though I could rattle off a gratitude list as long as your arm and I start and end each day with a prayer and I realize I am among the very blessed of this world, I am still sinking deep into a place where I desperately don’t want to go.

Admitting weakness is not one of my strong suits. I can self-deprecate with the best of them, but when it comes right down to it I feel like I am a strong mofo, above weakness of any sort, and there is absolutely zero room for me to complain or accept sadness or accept anything that is not within my immediate control.

But that’s all a load of horseshit.

There are a zillion things out of my control. From as big as the constant barrage of violence in our world to the way my children react to the only parenting I am qualified to give to health issues that arise which I am not qualified to fix, whether they be mental or physical.

This is certainly not something that the odd passerby who asks me how I’m doing needs to hear. But it is something we all need to address in our lives; whether we need to find that trusted confidante or we need to admit to ourselves that there is a problem that can’t be solved on our own, we need to stop pretending that things are OK when they are not.

Maybe if more people said, “I’m not OK right now” and weren’t looked at as freaks or inappropriate or whatever, this world would be a different place.

I know that today is just a moment in time. I know that this, too, shall pass.  But let’s all remember people need a safe place to say, “I’m not OK”. If we all strive to be a safe place for someone, anyone, maybe the world wouldn’t seem so overwhelming.

Just a thought and I haven’t written anything in so long, I’m just hitting publish on this baby…

 

 

 

One-liner Wednesday– On thinking things through

The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ones. – Alfred Whitney Griswold


In preparation for my upcoming post on the SERIOUSLY WORST idea I have heard in a long time, I offer up this lovely thought as part of Linda G Hill’s One-liner Wednesday. Join in…you know you want to.

Ch-Ch-Changes

Time may change me. But I can’t trace time.

– David Bowie


I’ve been spending a lot of time writing off my blog and participating in Write Yourself Alive. In retrospect, I should have just used the blog as a forum for some of these exercises, but I was hesitant because I was writing about many themes that had nothing to do with me as a mother or my adventures as a single mom raising the twin tornadoes. This particular prompt really threw me for a loop, however, and in the end I decided this was the perfect place to explore it.

Question/Dig Deeper: Dissect change. What scares you or makes you uncomfortable about it? What helps you deal with it best?

Prompt: Write a short autobiographical story (1st or 3rd person) in which you reflect change. There must be an obvious before and after in the character/s.

At first, I thought this was easy. I’d always had an uncomfortable relationship with change so I thought I would write about my first awareness of it and how I’d grown and matured. I began writing about how my mother and her friend and I had sat on the beach when I was about fifteen and read my Tarot cards. They were studying Tarot at the time and I was a bit of a guinea pig. My future card was The Moon. Change.

I was resistant. I read something else in the cards. But they insisted that the card represented a massive change in my life up ahead. I should have embraced it. There was nothing in my life which warranted a comfort in staying where I was or whom I was. And yet…

As I explored this and started telling the story of me, I became extremely frustrated. Every time I thought I was writing something about how I embraced change and learned from it, it seemed the story started betraying me.

I haven’t changed at all! Not even since I was fifteen fucking years old! How can that be???

I was tempted to cheat and just write a story about becoming a mom. That sure as hell changed me. But there was this nagging at the back of my mind, something I needed to hash out and make sense of, something that would make the following a little less hard to swallow:

You are the same scared, insecure, gratification seeking, angry, loving, selfish, kind, passionate, opinionated, defiant, compliant, dichotomous person you have always been. Any grand transformation you feel has taken place is a total sham. If anything, you have been going forward in a dizzying spiral which only faintly resembles progress, but is, in reality, a series of pirouettes.

Then a friend who knows me inside and out suggested that I had indeed changed during these post-children, mommy years he had known me.

More confident. Less dependent. More trusting. Hopeful. Peaceful.

Still, I abandoned any further dissection of this tricky subject. And then I had the chance to examine both of my boys independently while we were at the ocean this past weekend. I was amazed at the simple, subtle ways they had changed (and not changed) and were becoming evermore themselves. Individuals. Growing. Almost tweens.

Gone were my babies. Gone was the need to hover over them every second. I still waded out into the ocean with them, as they grabbed their boogie boards with varying degrees of daring. I spent time with each of them alone; testing the ocean and our limits. I watched as their approaches were both the same as they were when they were younger, and yet, different; progressed.

C, cautious as ever, but wanting to embrace the surf. G, almost careless, getting reprimanded by the sea. And mama, letting them go, keeping a watchful eye as they discovered their limits and their limitlessness in the rough waves.

My boys are growing up in the time between when I close my eyes at night and wake to them making their breakfasts in the morning. I’m quickly losing sight of the babies, toddlers, little boys they used to be. They are the big kids now, not quite tweens and thank God, not teenagers, but they are well on their way. And they have changed with time and not changed at all, simultaneously. It is hard for me sometimes to see the difference between the changes time is bringing and the difference which they are having on themselves.

It’s all change though, right?

I realized while watching the boys and contemplating my changes as a mother that time does indeed change us, even though we may not think we are changing at all. Maybe there are certain core characteristics that will never change and that is alright. But maybe, with experience, we can enhance or abandon those patterns or traits which set us back. We may approach life with all of our baggage, with all that we have been or done before, but the outcomes may be wildly different according to our wisdom, and self-awareness, and discipline.

Maybe it is OK that I am pirouetting through life, as long as those circles are projecting me forward.

Maybe if a circle is destructive enough and I stumble, I will embrace a new choreography. I want to believe I have already done that. Certainly, as a mother, I have.

We cannot stay static for long. We cannot trace time’s immeasurable effect. We can only breathe in and out each day and attempt to learn from what has come before.

all that lies ahead

all that lies ahead–seven years ago…

One-Liner Wednesday– On appropriate footwear for the journey ahead

I think I may need more than flip-flops!


This blessing is brought to you by Linda G Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday and my 365 things to love about being Irish calendar. Join in!