Understand

I think at some point, everyone in the world will have that feeling –

Wondering why everyone else can’t just be more like them. Why they can’t just get it, just do it, just see what we see or feel what we feel.

Because it’s so obvious to us. We see the world so clearly in our own way. At times the picture might be a little blurry, things may change, but what we make of the world is so clear to us.

And sometimes it’s easy to wonder why others don’t see it that way, too. That even among like minded folk, we can feel misunderstood, we can feel like we must have it all wrong, or that we are the only ones that have it right.

But no one else can really understand. Not really. No one can make themselves into someone else, and we can imagine – we can open our minds, open our hearts. We can empathise, we can listen, we can reason. But we can’t see the world quite the way anyone else does, we will never draw the same conclusions.

We find different problems. Even among those who see the same problems, we’ll see different causes and different solutions.

What you are doing is really great. It is so important, and I am so glad that you do all the things you do. I’m so glad that you are making those plans, I’m so glad that you are focusing where you are. I am so glad for your talents, your passion, for the direction in which you flex your will.

And I’m glad for my focus, for my plans, for my own kind of magic. I’m glad for everything that I do, too.

And that is exactly how I fit here, it’s why I am here if you prefer to think of it that way. Because I am perfectly suited to see and to do whatever it is that I see and do.

And I probably won’t be able to do the work just as you imagine it should be done.

Then, it is a good thing that the world has you, too.

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.

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!