Out of Control

So, I’m about 37 and a half weeks pregnant. Third child… So this is not completely new to me, but since I first learned I was pregnant I’ve been worried about stacking more and more on top of the struggles I’m still having in adjustment to becoming a parent to each of my first two children.

I have learned a lot. So much. And that list is growing all the time, still. My first opened up a lot of lessons about trust – in myself, in her, in the world around us. My second has compounded that with lessons in patience. Both of them together teach me so much about surrender and initiative, communication and support.

And there is still so much I don’t know, so much I don’t have figured out. And I expect that is the way it is meant to be,  in parenting and in life. It just seems the lessons and the challenges come packed so much closer together in the early childhood years, with so much on the line and so little time to adapt.

But I have grown a lot, too. I think the greatest thing I’ve noticed lately is that I am growing into the uncertainty and lack of control that I must allow at times. And I don’t welcome it very often still, but I’m learning to recognize that it’s unavoidable, and I’m learning more about all the parts of myself that still want to resist. And one at a time or sometimes in many ways at once I am learning to heal, to tame and to teach those parts how to deal.

But here I am, nearing the end of my third pregnancy. Thought I had finally reached the plateau after a long climb towards discipline in routines and housekeeping, clearing space so that I could do the work required each day to keep from drowning under half finished chores, neglected personal projects and plentiful requests for help and attention.

But now I’m tired. And just today, I feel my body has stretched past it’s threshold for this extra weight and the work I was trying to do with it. And my back is starting to hurt, and my legs and my feet have been so stiff and my body doesn’t want to do the work anymore.

And this could mean that labor is imminent.  I feared it was coming last week, but I’ve been hoping for it any day now. Or it could mean that I have a few weeks to spend not being able to bend over to pick up the toys and the clutter, or load the dishwasher, or pick up little bodies wanting to feel close…

And if that is the case, I’ll be in for many days of watching rather helplessly as all the work I’ve put in to make my house feel tidy enough for my mental well being is undone. Watching things pile up again, falling behind after finally crawling out of that place of feeling like I was perpetually catching up, but never quite getting there.

And there is something poetic about that for me, that as I grew more worried about how I was going to physically keep up with the tangible work that needed to be done, that I will be forced to surrender to complete inaction and just have to deal with it that way. That makes sense. I know that’s one way that I can be forced to make peace when I’ve been fighting with myself.

But it doesn’t seem fair, at all. Because I do think I was stressing just a bit too much, but I’ve really needed the discipline and the results that I was pushing for. I really needed to know that I could keep things up. I really needed that much clear space and order to make myself feel like I could handle this, like I am indeed cut out for the life that I have taken on.

I really need the energy and drive to get my kids to bed at a decent time when I start to burn out at the end of the day. I really need to know that I can have some time to reconnect and decompress at the end of the day, without staying up into the wee hours of the morning and wearing myself down.

I really need the ability and the will to finish things that I start, to clear things up when I am done with them to avoid intimidating, stress triggering piles of “how will I ever get through that?” so I don’t have to worry so much about the necessary messes of play and of life.

And I really need the patience and the presence of mind to clear up the extra at the end of the day so we can have a fresh start each morning. To notice what is working and what isn’t so I can respond accordingly and keep everyone’s needs met and everyone feeling taken care of and loved.

I didn’t really know how to achieve all of that without pushing so hard.

And all the things I now suspect I am being asked to let go of, are all things I thought were really important to help me get through this next challenge of keeping on top of everything I was before with yet another little person in the mix.

And it just doesn’t seem fair.

And now I wonder just what lessons this little one will lead me to, as I think of all I’ve learned and worked on in preparation for her arrival already.

This next part might be very hard, before she even comes. Her early days might be a relief or they might be the thing that breaks me right down. I’m not so sure those hard breaks are such a bad thing, now…

Because apparently I don’t really know yet how to pace myself, when to let go and how to prioritize. I know I’ve made leaps and bounds with that just recently, but…

Here I am now, very pregnant, tired and sore and feeling quite helpless and frustrated. And life just goes along anyway. Somehow we eat and play and fight and make up and love and go to sleep anyway.

I guess I can relax into that for now, but I really hope that I have truly learned from the work I’ve been recently practicing, and that it won’t be that hard to pick up again once my body and my mind have recovered.

And I hope that letting things spiral just a little out of control in the meantime won’t make me feel like a failure anymore.

Grace

Studying the magic of compassion,

I grant myself grace

And I keep all of my worries

In a secret hiding place

But sometimes, they build up a bit too much

And I must sort through

And weigh each mix of feelings

And sift out illusion from the truth.

I’ve been parenting myself so much,

My kids can benefit, too.

I’ve mastered cleaning up after myself,

But still there’s more to do.

I’m trying to stay aware of what’s most pressing,

Make the most of time,

And trust that my best is enough

To sail through snags and come out fine.

And I have found some new success

With things I once did struggle with,

But still a fear clings deep inside

That if I stumble or I slip,

Or if I rest a bit too long

Or cut myself too much slack,

That all I’ve built will tumble down

And knock me off my fresh laid track.

And it’s easy to feel lonely, now,

Or like I haven’t time for much,

But I feel a growing urge deep down

To soothe myself and keep in touch.

So much pressure I’ve applied,

Such a fire I’ve lit under me,

I’m not sure what will be left

If I’m not pushing myself forcefully.

But I’ve been studying compassion,

And I grant myself grace.

And I’ve completed much already,

And this was never meant to be a race.

To Bend or Break: a Pause

Greetings to you strange friends and friendly strangers! I took a bit of a break from my decluttering extravaganza. I spent some days catching up on other things that needed my attention and tried to include myself in that!

I feel like I have been through a bit of a whirlwind. Time is passing quickly. I still sometimes feel like I have so far to go, so much to do, but I can see more tangibly now what I have accomplished in even a short time lately, and that feels so good.

We’ve been working on establishing a bona fide bedtime routine, and we’re not quite at the sleep time I would most appreciate, but it is so much better than it was and still seems to be shifting earlier, ever so slowly. Without much strain I guess, now that the kids are usually asleep before I get too burnt out.

There are times when I decide something is really important and I just put all of my energy into it, even when it doesn’t come naturally or when it seems like a big effort. I just give it everything I have and try to make it happen. Go through the motions and strain myself to get as close to the mark as I can. And when I’m doing that and I experience any set back, any delay or any complication, it feels so awful.

And I’ve had some nights lately where I sat in the dark for over an hour waiting for a child to stop squirming and fall asleep. Nights when I didn’t want to read any stories by the time we started. Nights where I didn’t want to nurse at all, but tried to offer it as long as I could possibly stand to buy an easier transition into sleep, to be able to walk away a little sooner. Nights where I was hoping to catch up on the dishes, on my studies, on some quiet project or another after the kids were asleep, but found myself so exhausted by that time that I couldn’t do anything meaningful at all.

It’s part of that perpetual cycle I find myself in, always feeling like I am catching up or making up for something, never quite finished. Wanting to focus on one thing at a time, but feeling unable to prioritize. Because when I am going through clothes to donate, the dishes pile up. When I’m cleaning up the kitchen, toys and books are getting dumped out. When I’m cleaning up the play areas, a wall somewhere is getting colored on. When I’m working away at something stained or broken, the kids get too hungry and start fighting. When I’m making lunch, they want my attention. When they have my attention, the laundry piles up.

And there is this dance to it all, sometimes I’m paying attention to what is right in front of me and I take the right steps, things fall into place as well as they can and things are taken care of in time.

But sometimes, often really, the scope of it all is so overwhelming that I try to force things at the wrong time, or just can’t get moving on anything at all.

Management of our entire household is so full of details and nuances. I’ve been thinking a lot about the mental load of it lately. All that invisible work of noticing, analyzing, organizing, preparing, delegating. And there is so much to keep track of.

I haven’t felt particularly talented when it comes to rhythm and structure and getting chores done. I seem to have a lot of trouble finding the right way to schedule things for myself so there is time for everything. And I’ve largely been making up for this deficit I feel by focusing more and more on simplifying our lives. Trying to have less things, less demands so it is easier to get to the bottoms of every pile.

But the funny thing about simplifying, that is a task, too. That can be a chore. That can be a whole category of chores. A new set of tasks to check off, projects to manage.

This time around, as I’m decluttering I have noticed more regular tasks falling to the wayside and a bit of mess piling up. But it hasn’t been as bad as I might have feared. I do feel now that I am starting to see some actual space cleared, some actual relief of needless tension, and the feeling of being a little closer to being caught up with myself.

In taking a few days here to get some other cleaning done, I’m actually starting to feel happy and content about my house, my life again.

And with a trip planned this weekend, I’m not sure how fast I’ll get through the rest of the decluttering challenges. But I’ve made a big push and I can see that we are moving! I should be able to keep this all up over this next month as things slow down a bit for us again.

I do have another area half done to post soon upon completion! But I don’t feel like I need to pressure myself to push, push, push until all those rocks are over the mountain anymore. I have a lot more faith now that we can take care of everything in time! And that is such a relief.

I hope you are all well and feeling capable and comfortable out there! At least some of the time!

Faeries and Monsters

I used to believe in faeries. At least, I think I did. I know I wanted to.

I haven’t told my daughters that faeries are real, yet. I don’t want them to think that the monsters they imagine are real, too. Like I used to.

I remember hearing tales of pixies in the tree leaves, and of hell hounds in the forest at night.

I spent a lot of time dreaming, playing, enjoying, but I remember a lot of time spent worrying and wondering, too.

And some things don’t really change. Maybe they concentrate with age. I see a lot of fear in myself, still.

And I haven’t been believing quite so much, and I haven’t been playing quite enough.

I’ve been worrying and wondering about the monsters.

About the ache in the space where I used to be connected to my magical family tree.

About the time with them I missed that left me hardening my shell for the sake of survival.

About the anger that rises up inside of me when I don’t feel like I have everything figured out and running predictably.

About the fear of not measuring up and the difficulty in admitting that by asking for support.

And mostly, so often, I am worrying and wondering about my kids.

Why they are suddenly whiny, why they are annoying each other, why they can’t just share, why my oldest panics when things don’t go her way, why my youngest can’t just leave some things alone, why they both want my attention when I seem least able to give it, why they drag their feet getting ready, why they run away when I try to talk to them….

And I think, well, it must be that I have left the TV on a little too much, and I condemn myself a little.

It must be because this place is so cluttered, they can’t relax, and I feel frustrated with my inability to get on top of the never-ending mess.

I think, it must be because of all that junk food, maybe I should have made lunch a little earlier, they haven’t been eating enough greens… and I wish I had more talent and passion for food, that I could prioritize it.

It must be because they lack consistency, they went to bed too late, and I struggle to force us into a rhythm only to fall back out, again and again and again…

And when I blame the TV, I turn it off suddenly and in anger, in a great big huff.

And when I blame the mess, I rant angrily about how they have contributed to it, how they can’t seem to help enough.

And no matter what external condition I try to point the finger at, my discomfort is coming from deep inside. A pile of crumbs, a junk food lunch, those are not monsters. And what I am really lashing out at when I try to fight those things is my kids. And they are not monsters…

It’s been really hard grieving and doing this healing work while being a mother to young children.

And I catch myself feeling like I need to work so hard, strain, live up to these expectations to insulate us from harm, from fear, from uncertainty.

But the monsters still come.

The only thing making my kids act out is me. My disconnection, my anger, my impatience. My monsters.

And they don’t really need a beautifully orchestrated daily rhythm, the greatest of all foods made from scratch all the time, a tidy minimalist sanctuary, or a world completely free from media to feel content and happy.

They need me. They need me to be present with them. To accept them, to accept their feelings. To accept the ways that they show me what they need, however messy. To care for them. To stand firm in the centre of the bad days and bad feelings, and to play and to laugh with them, without fear.

My children need me to show them all about the faeries.

And I need for my children to help me remember that they exist.

Pendulum Swings in Perfectionist Parenting

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what seems to be a boom and bust cycle I have been going through, in terms of parenting and households ambitions.

There are a lot of ideals I hold. I have been wanting to practice more discipline with myself, more regular cleaning, more rhythm and schedule to our days that we can feel more confident and content within. And I had so many ideas about what I should be doing – what kind of food I should be cooking, how present I should be, what kind of days I should be guiding the kids through.

And I have been having so much trouble pushing myself to be more productive in so many different areas at once. I would get some motivation, have some days without TV, wake up a bit earlier, get more time outside, have more regular meals. But I would burn out very quickly, feel like I was pushing just a little bit too hard. And instead of easing off into moderation, I would just slack off completely and we would have times of too much indulgence, too much distraction, too much mess. And any relief I might feel from giving up on trying so hard to live up to those expectations would soon be replaced by frustration about clutter, sticky floors, kids acting out after too much media, days gone by feeling like I hadn’t really done enough.

I still can’t be sure if my discomforts at those times of rest and leisure are because I really want and need more structure to function, or just because I feel like I am not good enough when we are eating commercial food, don’t have everything organized and cleaned, and aren’t having Pinterest-worthy days full of crafts and love and magic.

Since I got past my initial parenting phase of being way too tuned into my child and not having any interests or projects outside of her, I have felt bursting with ambition and creativity to work on my own things again. And that seems to be where I have the most trouble balancing my parenting goals with my personal ones – if I want to have adequate time and opportunity for self-care as well as creative expression and to pay attention to my own interests, it seems that I need to sometimes leave the tv on, or let the kids make a mess, or let my high standard of routine and cleanliness slide. But sometimes I let it slide just a little too far, finding I want to lose myself in my own work like I could before I had kids.

This brings me to notice the divide that still exists in me, between what I think of myself as an individual, and how I see myself as a parent. I would love to work to bridge those two aspects of myself, and find ways to live a magical and creative life as a parent, instead of feeling like I need to compartmentalize everything, and totally shirk off my responsibilities to do things that make me feel good.

I am working on finding a balance, here. I am trying to be more honest and more realistic with myself about what I really need to do, what I can do. And looking more at my particular skills. I really believe that I can have a lush creative life and be more present with my kids. As long as I am not spreading myself too thin in other areas, too!

So I’ve been easing off on the push to perfect all the crunchy, connected, spiritual parent things. Trying to worry less about accomplishing the external things that I have convinced myself that I need to do to be doing a good job at this. And I have let things slide just a bit too much into indulgence, it seems, but even though I would like to do just a little better than I seem to be right now, I have been open to having a lot more fun with my kids. I have been managing to keep the house and my kids from falling apart, and I’ve still been able to get involved with a lot of crafts, writing projects and social collaborations.

I am learning to trust that movements towards healthier eating and better schedules can happen for me, without me trying to work them all out and force them to happen. But for now, I am learning to be content with my own gifts, and my own challenges, and am noticing the ways in which I am still appreciated and valued. And the ways that I appreciate and value myself! As a creative, mindful parent. As a sort of philosophical writer. As a friend, a partner, a family member.

I’ll be sharing a lot more of this journey as it develops. It is still hard for me to feel like I don’t seem to have things under control. But trying to act as if I do, to put on that show is a lot harder. And I much prefer being in the swing of things. I am really excited to see how this might work for us!