Obviously, I haven’t been on here for a while. 7 months in fact – and even before that my posts were sporadic and random and pretty depressing for quite some time. I don’t have some b.s. excuse for it, I don’t even have a legit omg my life has been so busy excuse. The truth is, I haven’t written on here because I just haven’t felt like it. Actually, if I’m going to be honest, I might as well go all the way – there are a lot of things I haven’t felt like doing. Not just in the last few months or even the last year, but by searching back almost five years I can find a pattern. I’ve been drifting, and it’s finally about time for me to pull out the oars and paddle myself back to where I want to be – back to me.
Allow me to explain. Just under a month ago I was getting ready to go to a friend’s wedding. As I stood looking at myself in the mirror, the first, most startlingly prominent thought it my head was I am really unhappy with myself. It was one of those lightning bolt moments – the kind that start of as one kind of thinking, and then take this totally unexpected turn that leads down a rabbit hole I didn’t even know existed. The thought stayed with me, hell, it practically stalked me. At first, I thought I’m just not happy with how my body looks right now. I’ve never been big into fitness, I eat what I want, drink a case of Diet Pepsi a week, and can easily put back a 6 pack of Bud Light without batting an eye. So my initial line of thought went something like this…. I’m turning 30 in four months. And I totally have a beer belly. That is so not happening. I refuse to start the “next chapter” of my life with a freaking beer gut.
So Monday morning I put the boys on the bus, pulled out my bicycle and rode for an hour. Whoo Hoo! I accomplished something physical, and not only did I not die, but I felt pretty damn good about myself. So I made a resolution. I’m going to do this every day. I’m going to ride my bike every day come hell or high water. And I did. Each day I went a bit further, a bit faster, until I hit ten miles, when I decided it was time to work on my stamina and speed. Now my goal is to hit ten miles in under 40 minutes. That’s a tall order for someone as inherently lazy as I am, but I’m working on it.
Here’s the kicker – riding the bike turned out to open up a whole new can of worms. Each morning I had this entire hour where it was just me and my thoughts. And the more time I spent letting my mind wander, the more I realized that the day I stood looking in the mirror, I wasn’t just thinking about my stomach, or my arms. I was thinking about me. I am really unhappy with myself. Not just my appearance, but the whole me. Where did I go? When did I lose who I am? In this life of chaos, meltdowns, chores, dishes and errands… where the hell did I go? Where is the girl who took time every day to just enjoy my kids – for who they are, not who I want them to be? When did we stop doing stuff together? When did I decide that taking them to the playground for two hours is too taxing?
I used to do stuff. Not just with my kids, or my husband, or friends for family – but for myself. When did I stop enjoying writing? When did I stop taking pictures? When did dinner become this miserable obligation instead of an enjoyable time spent talking about our day? When did I start feeling guilty for taking a night or two just to lay in bed and read a book and enjoy spending time alone? When did everything become so burdensome? When did I become such a pessimist? I’ve always been a “silver lining” kind of person – where did she go?
So I started taking stock. Real, honest, serious stock of myself, my actions, my thoughts, and my life. Was I depressed? No. Was I happy? No. I wasn’t really anything. I was living in this fog – this world filled with obligations and commitments, while I ignored all of the good and beautiful around me. I wasn’t communicating with my kids – not on the level they need me to. I was barking orders, losing patience, and being a freaking dictator. I wasn’t communicating with my husband – I was getting my ass on my shoulders basically every time I thought he was looking at me sideways. I wasn’t keeping in touch with friends or family, I wasn’t doing anything I genuinely enjoyed doing – with the exception of watching Grey’s Anatomy on Friday mornings – and that’s just downright pathetic.
Is this really what I want for my life? Is this what I want my kids to think of twenty years from now when they look back on their childhood? Do I want them to think “Our laundry was always done and dinner was always on time” or would I rather them think “We used to make forts in the living room and have movie nights.” Do I want them to remember how spotless the kitchen was, or how much fun we had pretending to be police officers at the playground? When they look back at dinner times, will they remember sharing good memories from the day, or being yelled at for tapping their chairs with their feet, or not using their silverware properly? This was not the childhood I envisioned for my children – this is the living, breathing nightmare I had growing up when I silently vowed I’d never be a parent – because I was afraid of being this parent. This impatient, fire breathing, chore dictator who never took the time to chase bubbles, or let my kids put me in imaginary jail.
Some serious changes needed to be made, and it was high time I stopped ignoring the problem, and started facing it head on. Because the problem was me. I wasn’t broken, but I was pretty bent out of shape, and let’s face it, the only person who can fix me is me. My kids were acting out because I was acting like a tyrant. I wasn’t listening to them, or spending any amount of enjoyable time with them. My husband was feeling neglected because I was too busy suffocating myself in misery to really pay him any attention when it came down to it. So, enough.
I started reading this book – Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve never been the kind of person who checks out the Self-Help section, but this popped up on my kindle and before I could rethink it, I downloaded it and went to town. And I can honestly say I’m really glad. Because she made me stop and really analyze myself, my habits, and the world I’ve created for myself. It wasn’t long before I decided I’d spent enough time contemplating change, it was time to implement it.
Step 1 – Be healthier. Kaleb has been struggling to put weight back on since last fall when he suddenly lost nearly 20lbs for reasons nobody has been able to determine. I was harping on him all the time about eating better, getting more exercise, etc. Well, how fair is that when he sees me eating a flippin’ ice cream cone for lunch and sitting on my lazy ass all day? I need to be a better influence, and set a better example. Be the kind of change I want to see in my world. Riding my bike is great, but the boys are sleeping or at school when I do that, so they aren’t exactly seeing it. So, I got rid of the junk, replaced it with healthy options, and started having family “walks” every afternoon. Walk is in quotation marks because the kids aren’t actually walking, they are riding their scooters, but at least we are getting out of the house together and getting some exercise. Added bonus? I discovered that if I put whatever meat I made for dinner in a salad Kaleb would eat it like it was the best thing I’d ever cooked. In fact, I’ve heard more compliments on my cooking in the last few weeks from him than I have since the first time I made him blueberry pancakes. Another added bonus? The boys are getting along better. It would appear (go ahead and say “duh” anytime here) that spending more positive time together, riding scooters and making up silly games has actually cut down on some of their constant animosity. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t freaking angels, and they still drive each other crazy – but the arguing has cut down considerably. They’ve been more patient with each other, they are speaking more nicely to each other, and they are actually playing together without being prompted.
Step 2 – My negativity. Wow have I become a freaking negative person. I mean, I have actually caught myself putting myself into a bad mood simply by focusing on all the things that are wrong or bad in my life, instead of being grateful for all of the things that are incredibly wonderful. I resented my kids and my husband for completely asinine reasons. I didn’t like getting up in the morning. I hated that the dishes and the laundry (my two least favorite things in the world to deal with) were never ending. The house was always a mess. My to-do list was too long and nobody helps out around the house. Why should I be the one taking out the garbage or cleaning the gutters? Why am I spending three hours cleaning toys and messes that I didn’t make? Why can’t you just be quiet!?! Stop running, stop jumping, stop shouting – stop being children and just grow up already.
I was a freaking bowl full of rainbows and sunshine, wasn’t I? What gives me the right to chastise Daddy for telling the kids to be quiet – they’re kids, they’re supposed to be loud – and yet turn around five minutes later and yell at them to be quiet. I stopped enjoying them for who they are, and instead focused on all the things they weren’t. That had to stop now. I’d already been doing a pretty good job of quashing my early morning grumpiness – getting up and riding my bike provided me with a perfect opportunity to wake up, enjoy the fresh air, and be more pleasant when it came time to get the monsters up and make breakfast. I also had the energy to actually make breakfast, not just chuck some cereal in a bowl and set it down with a quick don’t make a mess before secluding myself out on the porch. So, the mornings were easier, but the rest of the day – well, that can be a struggle. It’s pretty hard not to lose your patience when you answer the same question seven times in a span of sixty seconds because someone isn’t listening. Take a deep breath. Let the kids be kids. If they fall and get hurt running through the kitchen, maybe they’ll think before they run through the kitchen again. Not likely, but maybe. Stop jumping in every time they start to bicker -they have to learn how to figure out their problems on their own eventually, why not start now?
So what if Mason gets covered in dirt playing in the back yard? He’s a little boy, and little boys tend to get dirty. No more of this “I’m too busy” crap. What chore, what errand or dirty dish is more important than my children? None. Do the chores have to get done? Of course, but not at the expense of my kids having fun memory-making adventures with me. I’ve also started a “Positive Journal”. Every night before bed I write down three things each child and Daddy did today that I thought was either positive, funny, or just helpful. Nothing negative. Then I do the same for myself. What am I proud of myself for today? I need to start looking at life in a better light, and stop focusing on all the petty ugliness.
3 – That leads me to here. The house. I love this house. I hate this house. Some days I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else. Some days I felt like I could watch it burn to the ground and not shed a tear. What’s wrong with the house? Nothing. Again, this is all me. I’m carrying around this insane amount of resentment. This absurd image of myself as June Cleaver with a spotless house, and perfect hair. Considering I can’t remember the last time I even turned on my blow-drier this is the most unrealistic expectation I’ve set for myself yet. I’ve never been a great house keeper – and the truth is I probably never will be. Mostly because I hate cleaning. I usually only really clean things when I’m pissed off – and that’s yet another pathetic way to go through life. I don’t want to live in a pigsty. I also don’t want to look back at the end of the week and wonder just what the hell I spent all my time doing. I needed to find a balance. And then it struck me – we have too much stuff. Why on earth are there toys in Mason’s room that were Kaleb’s from when he was a baby? Why have I held on to all of these things that nobody plays with? And for crying out loud, how long am I really going to keep putting up with the fact that I can barely open my closet doors – let alone reach my clothes?!
It’s time for a purge. An all out, no more hoarding cards from ten years ago kind of purge. No more “I might wear this one day”, or “They might want to play with this again” – enough is enough. First I did the boys’ rooms – and I filled enough garbage bags to completely fill the back of the Tahoe. Then I loaded the boys in the car with me (after explaining what was happening), and we took it all to Goodwill. They said goodbye to their toys, I said goodbye to clutter. Then I took an empty box and set it on top of Milo’s crate by the front door and had a talk with the boys.
“Here’s the deal – from now on, mommy is not cleaning your toys. Before I make breakfast every morning your beds will be made, and your rooms cleaned to my satisfaction. Toys and books will no longer be left laying around the house where they don’t belong. This box? This is the new Goodwill box. If I come across something that belongs to you and is not in the proper place I will shout “Goodwill Box!” You will then have two minutes to find the offending item and put it away before I put it in the box. Once it goes in the box, it doesn’t come out without a lot of work on your part. All outside toys will be picked up before you come inside, or they go in the Goodwill box.”
Strangely enough, this is actually working. I haven’t cleaned a toy in almost two weeks. And that has cleared up a shocking amount of free time for us to play. New rule #1 – we don’t get to have fun until all our work is done. Of course, that leaves me with my closet. Which I’m working on – honestly it’s a lot more difficult to get rid of my own stuff than it is everyone else’s. So far I’m about 1/3 of the way through, and you can barely walk through my bedroom without tripping, but I’m getting rid of stuff, and I’m reorganizing. I’ve also started collecting laundry every day and putting it in one basket by the garage door. The minute it’s full, the laundry goes in. So instead of doing a mountain once a week, I’m doing a small load every other day or so.
4 – Now I’ve cleared up time to play with the kids, made housework easier, and have been working on my attitude, so here comes the kicker. Me. I feel like I’ve lost some vital parts of myself over the years, and it’s about damn time I do something about that. I can’t keep putting everyone ahead of myself 24/7 – it’s burned me out and made me angry, resentful, and rebellious toward minor tasks and problems. So what are some things I stopped doing? I stopped taking pictures. It was a really sad moment for me to turn on my camera and realize there were pictures from Kaleb’s birthday in November still on the memory card. I used to take pictures constantly. Big things, little things, happy things, sad things – I wanted to capture those memories to look back on years from now when my kids are grown and I can no longer picture their dirt filled faces chasing after bubbles in my mind. So, another resolution. Take pictures every day. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, if they are just sitting down to eat lunch or reading a book on the couch – take a picture. Get back in the habit of enjoying a hobby I’ve loved since I was a child.
Writing. Years ago I got an idea for a book. I took notes, did some research and walked away from it. In February I finally had enough information, my story line was pretty much complete, and my character outlines were done. So I forced myself to sit down and write. And I did. I wrote 65,000 words in 30 days. And I was damn proud of that. Then I walked away to give myself a “break” so I could come back to it fresh and make my edits, adjustments, etc. Only now it’s June and I haven’t touched it. Until this morning that its. I said no more procrastinating (I hate editing. I get myself too tied in knots). I grabbed my laptop, grabbed the kids, took off for the playground, and spent an hour editing while they ran off their morning energy. I was about 30 minutes into this when Kaleb came over and sat down next to me. Without saying a word, he watched from my side as I read through and made changes on a chapter. About ten minutes in he said “Wow mom! You’re a great writer! That’s a lot of chapters, I bet you’ll sell that book for a lot of money!” I laughed and told him that would be nice, probably unrealistic, though it was a dream of mine to one day write something that tops the charts. I think the words he said next will echo through my brain for the rest of my life:
“You said dreams can come true if you work really hard. And you work really hard all the time, so I think your dream has to come true.”
In my forgetting myself, and not following the paths that truly make me happy, I missed yet another vital piece of my family’s puzzle. I’ve said before I need to set an example for the kids – be the change I want to see in my world. The best way to teach my kids to follow their passions, and really pursue the things that make them happy – is to do that myself. No, I can’t just drop everything and forget all responsibilities, but I can certainly show them that hard work and dedication pay off – even if it’s just knowing that you accomplished a goal for yourself. I think the morning playground/writing sessions are going to be a thing now.
5 – I’m working on my mom skills, my patience, my household skills, my personal goals, and clearing my life of clutter. What’s next? My relationships. I see Daddy every day. He doesn’t travel anymore, and is instead working from home – which has certainly presented a new list of challenges and rewards. But seeing someone every day, and seeing someone every day are not the same thing. I need to pay better attention to subtle things – but I need to do it while still being me. Make the time to be who he needs me to be, without losing who I am and who I want to be. Make more effort to understand the way he communicates, instead of trying to make him communicate my way. Let him be him, while I am me – because we are in this together, but we don’t have to have the same brain, same thought processes, same views on life to be with one another happily. We need to learn to let each other be ourselves and love each other for those differences – not in spite of them. He sometimes sees the world as black and white – when I see technicolor. He’s fascinated by how things work, I’m usually just happy that they work at all. He needs order and understanding, I need organized chaos and spontaneity.
I need to stop nagging. I need to stop doing things in hopes of receiving praise or acknowledgement and just do them for myself. Do I really need a pat on the back because the house is clean? Do I seriously need him to drop what he’s doing right this second to help me fix my bike? No. The house is clean because that’s part of my job as the person who insisted the house be run by me, my way. If I was willing to compromise on how the housework is done, then I could complain about not having anyone to share the load with. But the fact is, I like things done my way, and that’s my problem. Nobody else’s. Does it matter if he sleeps in on the weekends? Not really – He works hard throughout the week and deserves some down time just as much as I do. Plus, I’ve come to enjoy my early morning bike rides, and the breakfast fiasco with the kids – that’s our time together, and I should cherish it, not resent that I don’t get to sleep in. Besides, whenever I have a chance to sleep in I can’t anyway. So what’s the point in bitching about something I don’t even like to do?!
That’s where I am. I’m doing my best to get back to myself – I’m going to be me, but more. I’m going to appreciate who I am, and work to be who and where I want to be. I’m going to appreciate, love and respect my kids and my husband for who they are – not who I wish they would be. I’m going to stop nitpicking and start enjoying. Cherish that Mason brings me wildflowers every day, and checks to make sure the bracelet he got me for Mother’s Day is on my wrist. Love that Kaleb shares my love of the written word, and encourage him to write his own stories. Find fun and humor in more situations, laugh more, harder, and more honestly. Respect that I am not the person I used to be, but know that it doesn’t mean I can’t grow into someone even better.
I’m going to try to write on here more often, because I miss being able to connect with the world this way. Welcome to my mid-life crisis. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I will. After all, roller-coasters are one of my favorite things in the world – might as well enjoy the natural one that life put me on.
Thanks for reading this absurdly long post. It’s good to be back. Now I’m going to go enjoy my life.