Settling for Less

Early on in my motherhood, I was terrified to lay my baby down for a nap.  All I could think about, as I lowered him into his crib, was my plan of accomplishments as he slept.  “I’ll do the dishes, no, I’ll take a nap, no I need to mop, no I’ll read a book, I’ll watch a show, ok, I’ll quick put the show on while I throw the dishes in the dishwasher and mop up the kitchen, then I’ll grab my book, lie in bed, and fall asleep reading.  But I seriously need some chocolate and coffee.  I am so tired.  I will never have a moment to myself.  Please lie down, baby.  Please, take a nap.  Please, don’t wake up.  Oh, Lord, please let him sleep.  Please, please.”

I was a nervous, pleading wreck.

I am still a nervous wreck, but I don’t plead quite as much.

Sometime in that first summer with my baby, I remembered what the nurse called to me in the delivery room.  “Be brave, Mama!”  She kept chanting it.  She was going in and out of the room quite a bit, but upon each entrance, she would call from the door, “Be brave, Mama!”

“Yes. That’s it.  I will be brave through this pain.  I want to be brave.  I will be brave.”

I had taken Bradley Method birthing classes for 12 weeks in preparation for giving birth.  I had nervous breakdowns, mild to some standards, but alarming to my husband, during the first four sessions of class.  Our teacher declared me most-improved by the end of it all.  On our last day of class, I was doing so well, she even confirmed I was in labor!  Yes, I sat through a two hour birthing class for my first two hours of labor.  It was perfect.  Contractions were regular, relatively mild, and my husband rubbed my back through each of them.  Plus, one of the other mom’s was in labor at the same time, right next to me.  It was all so encouraging.

Four hours later, we were at the hospital and pushing.  I was not as calm, but I was handling it.  It wasn’t the extreme pain or the sterile hospital environment that made me nervous.  It was the realization that I was exiting the dream.  No more newlywed status.  No more mama-to-be status.  No more planning and dreaming.  No more imagining my son, what he would look like, what his temperament would be.  He was coming and he was coming fast.  Reality was hitting me and I needed to be brave.

I heard his lusty borning cry.  A sound I will never forget.  I heard him while my eyes were still closed from the final push.  It was the brightest, clearest sound I had ever heard.  Better than any piece of music I had loved, more reassuring than any lullaby, more convincing and propelling than any speech.  He cried like someone might run out onto an empty stage yelling stubbornly, “I’m here!  I’m here! I came all this way.  I’m here!”

I may have been a little intimidated.

Later I stood, hovering over my son’s crib, trying desperately not to wake him, and not to get too excited about the things I might be able to start accomplishing in 30 seconds.  Maybe.  Possibly.  If he didn’t wake up.

“Be brave, Mama.”

Deep breath.  Courage.  Bravery.  I should tap into that.

In that moment, I recognized that my bravery would have to include acceptance of any outcome.  If he woke up, change course.  If he fell asleep, great.

I had to stop planning and pleading and start loving and leading.

Love the snuggles.  Lead him to the crib.  Love the sleepies.  Lead myself to the next task.  Love the wakings.  Lead us both to adjust to a new activity.

He is just another person to accept and work with.  Even with his great cries reminding me of his presence and his needs, he is still just a boy, not a challenge to overcome.

It’s been over a year since I began telling myself to be brave as a mom, to simply make a choice and then make another one.  I still struggle, but I’m growing.  I don’t fight my emotions at the crib so much anymore; I often fight them in the chair as he’s wriggling into a comfy position.  I’ve stopped planning so many things.  I plan maybe two and try to hold them loosely.

Today, in a step toward a more anxiety free life, I decided that I wouldn’t be devastated if all I got done during nap time was a shower.  Good thing, too, because that’s all I got done.  No coffee break, no reading time, no cleaning.  I took a shower and talked on the phone with my sister while trying to find something to wear.  And he woke up.  Because he hasn’t time for a nap, no ma’am.

I will have to learn to settle for less.  Less of my lists and more of my love.  Bravely, letting love out.  Oh God, teach me how to be content in any and every situation.  I can do everything through him who strengthens me.   I can even survive on less cake, less chocolate, less coffee, and less sleep.

Changes

My life has changed.

Where once I slept soundly and alone in my sister’s basement and woke to three of her children marching around the breakfast table singing, “I’m in the Lord’s Army!” I now sleep tossingly next to my new and also-not-sleeping husband and wake each morning to make him breakfast and send him off to work saying, “Have fun in the Army!  The real Army!”

Where once I ran through canopied sidewalks in a mid-sized Minnesota town where the breeze filled my mind with new ideas and creativity, I now have no place to run and the humidity and thickness of tiny-town Louisiana stifles my drive to write, music or otherwise.

Where once I bustled through busy days teaching gads of teenagers to sing together and casting visions for them of living highly creative and personable lives, I now barely believe in art and speak with no one younger than 24.  In fact, I hardly speak with anyone at all.

The quiet, married days I once longed for, I now have in abundance and they are very quiet.  I am alone most days, all day.  My husband works long hours and hates his job.  He’s gotten leaps better at not complaining at the house.  He leaves work at work most of the time now, but I feel it.  I feel his remorse for being stuck in terrible position, for being put upon by unthinking leadership.  He is bitter and has no other idea what to do.  Not really.  So I am quiet and quietly try to take care of the house and cook him meals, but it wears on me.

I wonder how other wives really feel.  I wonder if they are near tears or in full deluge of tears as much as I.  I wonder if it’s just my disability to adjust to these changes that makes my 5-week old marriage so difficult.  I wonder if my husband hears me.  I wonder if he would know what to do if he did hear me.

Do I even know what to do?  I am a get-involved sort.  I’m already making strides in that area, but it’s nothing.  It feels like nothing.  In little moments, it feels like life, but in the rest of the moments, the most of the time, it feels like not-really-me.

I feel like not me.

But in the midst of this, I tell myself that change, new things, take you out of your old shell and make a new shell around you.  It is reasonable, then, to expect to feel quite vulnerable and unlike yourself in that time.  The best thing I can do is let the change happen around me, with me, even through me.  If I fight it, I will only end up feeling such oddity and sadness for longer.

It is okay to take a while to change, but not if its because of fighting.  This only creates scars, mostly of resentment.

(*some dealings from September 2012)

Those Bits of Sanity

I was told
by an experienced friend
“what kept you sane outside of marriage,
will keep you sane inside of marriage.”

I have not been sane enough.

But why?

One year into my marriage,
still trying to fit in my sanity.

When do I write words?
When do I write music?
When do I sit and read and contemplate?
When do I go out for a run?

My husband tells me, “do it more.”
“Let me see that part of you.”
Oh, how I thought I was failing.
“It’s an invitation. To make you know you are safe.”

Safety. I hate the word.
Overused, misapplied, a baby blanket, an excuse for not moving forward.

Safe is not always a cozy feeling, so easily perceived.
Try a gulp of faith.  Disciplined trust.

My mothering is often based on some birth coaching
I received:
“Be brave, Mama.”

Sanity comes in my courage.

 (*a poem from 2013)

The Crafting Dilemma

I recently read that DIY weddings are out.  So 2011.

I was all about that idea last week!  Now, as my wedding approaches a quick 39 days, my shopping carts at etsy have begun to bulge and may soon break…the bank.  My philosophy of letting others do it for me and putting it on the card is plain not going to work.

Thankfully, my mother has kindly and effectively intervened.  She called on a few sweet, family friends to each make little parts of the reception decor.  One’s making a ring-bearer pillow, one’s making a guest book, one is making a banner, and so on.  It’s so gracious and lovely.

Of course, I’m now realizing that I’m going to have to pull my weight and make a few things, too.

My PT cruiser is now bulging with things I just “picked up” at Lowe’s today.  I’m supposed to stir, sand, paint, nail, and design a bunch of intimidating buckets of paint, wood, and paper into something beautiful?  Outside in the 110 degree Louisiana heat?  Oh, boy.

Since I’m not a crafty gal, I’m going to have to be headstrong and determined instead.  That, I am.

Here I go.

Pictures to come, if I dare.

**Note: I did, in fact, make a few crafts and order a few others for the wedding.  I do, in fact, have pictures.  I will post them at a later date.

I’m A Woman

A semi-repost with lyrics:

I’m A Woman
Naphtalia

9/22/10

I am a figure of your imagination
I have fooled you to think I really like carnations
But it’s just a web I weave

Nature, nature, nomenclature
Don’t tell me who I am
Nicked and knocked, my ticks and clocks are
Part of who I am
Mixed up, then fixed up, then mixed up again
I’m a woman

I am bold and clear and I have reservations
My emotions are more like a radio station
It’s fuzzy, then you tune in

Nature, nature, nomenclature
Don’t tell me who I am
Nicked and knocked, my ticks and clocks are
Part of who I am
Mixed up, then fixed up, then mixed up again
I’m a woman

Hear my song: beauty, beauty
I sing it all night, if I’m weeping or dancing
I don’t have one way to be
I want you to start seeing me

Nature, nature, nomenclature
Don’t tell me who I am
Nicked and knocked, my ticks and clocks are
Part of who I am
Mixed up, then fixed up, then mixed up again
Woven, then torn apart, then stitched up again
I’m a woman

I am beautiful and that’s not your imagination

Resting Kids

Not only do I believe in the necessity of the weekly Sabbath, I believe that being able to take a true Sabbath means that we cultivate a restful and renewable rhythm of life.

Below you’ll see quick start ideas for developing this time of mindset in children:

1. Take one minute of complete silence each day at noon (or right after lunch, right before nap time, or between morning snack and playtime).  You probably don’t want to stretch your kids by making them sit in silence for a minute while they’re hungry.  It’s hard enough for them to not talk.

2. Have them (each–if you don’t have too too many kids) write down an activity that they regularly LOVE doing.  Think: coloring, swinging at the park, playing the piano, or reading a book with you.  Write that activity down on your house calendar on the day you have designated for Sabbath.  (If you don’t have a big calendar hanging in the kitchen, think about adding one.)  When you reach that day, make sure you accomplish that activity with your child.  Chances are this won’t be work for you because you probably enjoy doing these things with them anyway.  Be sure you show the children that the day before Sabbath, you accomplished set tasks in order to be free to do their activity.  Have your child choose a task to complete the day before their activity as well.

3. Write in huge letters on your calendar, or post a big sign on your refrigerator that says “NO CHORES DAY.  WE ARE RESTING AND ENJOYING BEING TOGETHER.  PRAISE THE LORD FOR REST.”  Kids will obviously be excited to know that you have thoughtfully decided to free them of the burden of chores.  They love this release.  However, kids also can get overly excited and think they can then do EVERYTHING they think of doing–and they think of tons of fun activities.  To help them learn to rest, have them choose only one or two activities to enjoy that day.  Perhaps your 8 year old loves to read and ride bike.  Tell her she can do either activity as long as she likes, but she needs to split them up between before and after lunch.  (Of course she could read, bike before lunch then bike and read after lunch.)

I will keep mulling on this idea of teaching kids about the Sabbath and rest and see what else I come up with.  Most of my ideas so far apply to kids ages 2.5-8.  I am considering the predicament of infants in this as well, so don’t worry!  Please feel free to add your ideas below.

Happy rejuvenating!

Oh yes, I also wanted to share these thoughts on sound via TED.  Take note of the impact of bird songs.  Why not include nature in our rhythms of rest?