Conundrum

A post in which I tell the story of 2012: prioritize, realign, whine, pout, self-chasten, turn to gratitude journaling, feel grateful *and* defeated.

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December was a month in which I made list upon list of priorities and goals and dreams so that I could begin 2012 realigned, making choices I could fee good about and avoiding the detritus I had been mired in for too long.

Because I chose to stay home to raise my kids, my life got shoved into a closet, where it sat unused, unexamined, and devalued. Each time we moved, my hopes, dreams, goals, and interests got pushed further and further into the dark, cobwebby spots of our lives. Any time the old me called out from the dank recesses of the attic, the utilitarian me shouted her down.

“QUIET back there! You have no right to raise your voice to me! You chose this, so you have to do it really, really well 100% of the time!”

I wasn’t allowing myself time or space for my mind or body because I harbored this secret belief that, if I decided to do my best to raise my kids, there was absolutely no room for doing what I wanted. My job, 24 hours a day, is my little boys. Putting myself first, even for an hour, meant compromising and giving them less.

And it was driving me mad. Seriously. Both the insane and angry connotations applied. I have been losing it and just barely hanging on for almost six years. But this winter has been hard core. I’ve been climbing out of my skin, wasting time berating myself for every poor decision I made pre-kids because now I have nothing to show for my life. Oh, sure, those, but they’ll leave me and hate me and tell their therapist about how I was an empty shell of a zombie Mom. Or, rather, and empty shell of a zombie Mom who’s trying strenuously hard yet seemed to be failing miserably at just about everything, from personhood to motherhood.

So I reevaluated. I decided to find a sitter for the toddler a few hours a week so I could blink. I finished some client work and turned down new projects to focus on my own work. I convinced Spouse to be with the kids at 6am so I could start running again. I made manageable lists of short and long term goals with small steps to get to each one. I put one foot in front of the other. And I ditched facebook.

So far so good. On paper.

But I didn’t find the sitter. I checked out a few home-based daycare centers and read ads for sitters and remembered why we didn’t have anyone stay with Peanut (except my parents, and only a few times a year) until he was 4: I don’t want someone else raising my children. Until the boys can speak for themselves and express their needs and feelings, I don’t think someone else can do the best job with my itty bitty people. That’s just me, but it’s how I feel. Yes, I want to be with them because I want to see and hear everything in their day. Yes, I don’t always sound as though I do want to be with them. Yes, I think being a full time parent is important but I also feel it’s necessary to prove I’m not a freeloader absconding from my other jobs to do this job. I’ve already mentioned, I believe, my borderline insanity and obvious tendencies toward perfectionism that are ill-suited to my current role as Court Jester of Chaos, right? Okay then. Now I can mention that I don’t think I deserve to hire help when this is my job. The battle of the boxed goals and the utilitarian judgement are at it again, deeming who is worthy and who doesn’t deserve.

Good times.

So I’ve been whining about how hard it is to have a toddler and a kindergartener and a Spouse who works long hours. How very, very difficult it is to not blink for 13 hours straight. Boo hoo, big deal, people seem to parent with debilitating diseases and in the midst of trauma and major depressions, so I can take my withering hopes and dreams and shove them up my unfulfilled goals, right?

And someone offered to help me. Sweet Mary, Mother of my Cousins, someone offered to help me.

Normal people might sigh with relief and take a friend up on a sweet offer of help.

Ah, but I’m not normal. Instead, I felt chagrined that I’d complained so loudly. I vowed to start a gratitude journal and practice saying thank you for all the great things in my life. I promised myself I would focus on hopes and dreams and goals in my spare time but would refocus on my current, unpaid, disrespected, thankless, maddening, amazing, exhausting, important job.

And I heard this interview on KQED’s Forum, in which Chip Conley explained that more important than having what you want (oh, how I want and want and want) is wanting what you have. Appreciating all that is rather than longing for what might be.

So I spent the day being present and mindful and grateful. And by 7 p.m. I was in tears because I still don’t like being with my kids all day every day forever and ever amen without cease or break or freaking showers. I don’t want to make or serve or clean up food ever again. Ever. Ever ever ever again.

So I’m torn. I want to be happy with what I have. But I need. I have hopes and dreams and goals that are not well suited to tightly wrapped boxes in the back of the closet.

How do you balance being grateful for your life and still want desperately to change at least 12 things right now?

Blerg.

http://www.kqed.org/assets/flash/kqedplayer.swf

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