Trying on Awkwardness

I have been meeting new parts of myself a great deal lately. Some are surprising and exciting, others are darker and deep. Both are valid and bring gifts. One thing I have realized is how perfectionism plays a larger role in certain areas of my life than I would like to admit. With art-making I don't see the need to be perfect come into play as often, another indication that my creative process holds many truths for my day-to-day life. I can see perfectionism rear its ugly head when it comes to parenting, being a wife, and being a community member. though This says to me that there is a lack of self-compassion going on, that comparison is on full force and that there is a sort of disconnect from an internal peace. 

Recently in a therapy session the idea of being awkward came up, how sometimes we have to be uncomfortable in order to be vulnerable and truthful to who we are. I could feel my aversion to this idea, to the thought of purposefully being awkward as a way to feeling more free. It has dawned on me that I like to churn and mix thoughts in my head until I feel like they are polished and "perfect". Some how obsessing over a conversation that I need to have and thinking up the dialogue that is going to accompany said conversation and all of the possible ways that the conversation could take is much more useful than just being open, raw and maybe, yes, awkward in the moment. Whew. Just writing that exhausted me. The idea that I didn't have to spend so much energy on imaginary scenarios and instead could just speak my voice shakily was both scary and exhilarating. I realized that being seen as imperfect when it comes to parenting, being a partner, being a part of a family is frightening to me. But when I try to hide beneath the perfect facade I end up feeling disconnected from those I love and hollow inside. 

Really it is so obvious that imperfection and the risk of appearing awkward is such a more rewarding and gratifying way to live. I am realizing though that thinking is my default when really I need to switch control to my heart and how I feel. I have tended to think of myself as an emotional person, and I am, but I also realize how easily I discredit my body and go straight to my analyzing mind. And I took a whole life coaching course on listening to the body!!

Being awkward. I am going to try it on more often. As I approach 40 in another year,  there really isn't much reason for not trying to live in a more purposeful and gratifying way. To me that means, in a big part ,being more comfortable with being seen for who I really am. What do I really have to lose?

How do you feel about being awkward when it means expressing who you really are? Easy? Hard? Worth it? 

Straddling

My parents sold the house they had built in the seventies a few years ago. It was my childhood home and the memories stored up in the wooden floors, my bedroom walls, the rocks around the property were many. It was a move that allowed them to relocate to where their grandchildren lived and a move that brought them away from their community of 30+ years. The bravery of it all amazes me.

Routinely I walk my Maine home in my mind. The way that it felt to step up on the granite stoop and turn the metal knob of the front door, the creak of the pine floorboards (creeping in as a teenager was impossible), the way the sunlight came in the kitchen windows. How it felt to move up the stairs and into my bedroom, how it was to be in that space looking out at the canopy of trees surrounding the house. The endless Maine trees. I try to remember intimately in detail how it felt to be in that space, that space where I grew and played and learned and became. 

I find myself doing that with Jackson now. Memorizing the twists and turns and rocky outcroppings of Putt Putt trail, how Snow King looked from our bedroom window in all seasons, the routes I would take by car and bike and foot to get to the familiar places around town. Remembering the taste of a cinnamon brioche from Persephone Bakery (oh how I miss that place). How it felt to walk into Browse n'Buy and find a new treasure. The library. The elk refuge. Our house. My friends and acquaintances. Walking the dike searching for bald eagles and white pelicans. Reliving the pictures of my community in my mind in an attempt to feel connected. 

I recognize the comfort in doing this. And, being an artist, how visuals are part of my day to day experience. And I recognize how this recalling is keeping me with one mental foot in Jackson and one physical foot here in Boulder. A straddle that is not particularly comfortable.  I am scared of missing out on my friends lives, of not being involved in the day-to-day happenings of Jackson life, of having made a mistake to give up our life there. Here I feel awkward a great deal of the time. The awareness of not fully belonging yet. I notice how I often want to squirm away from that awkwardness. My kids keep me real. And my art. And my dance class that has become a beacon in my week. 

What I want to do is dive in deep here, into this place. To commit to being invested, curious, open to the unknown. To remain playful and creative. To ground down into the earth. But I can't do that fully yet.  I find ways to be in the present moment-writing, meditating, remembering to breath, yoga, dance, painting- but my heart is still grieving and I have to be gentle with this process.

So for now, I will continue to daydream my way through my former lives and places that have shaped who I am. I will also continue to remind myself of all the goodness that there is in this place and of the bravery of spreading our family wings and flying to a new nest. 

 

Begin Here

I'm feeling like I am drowning. And one of the ways that I know how to swim to safety is to write. There is something compelling me to make my words public, to put my voice out into the world a little further than my personal journal. This is partly because I know that I am not alone in many of these feelings, and partly because I do feel so isolated in the amazingly complex role of being a mom. I also want to open more, be vulnerable, not wear the facade that I sometimes do that everything is put together and happy and beautiful. I want to dig into the pain and walk through the suffering, and I see making my voice public a way to find connection as well as relief. 

Right now, in this moment, I want my life before kids back. I feel the enormous need to have as much alone time as possible, an unquenchable thirst that isn't met by a few hours by myself. I want to run away. To play out the other parts of my being that don't involve being a mother with whole-hearted abandonment. It feels awful and freeing to write these words. The voice that preaches at me to be the perfect mother, to think about my kids, to practice what I read in the parenting books squawks in protest to this declaration. How can you even begin to think about running away? The part of myself that is a little deeper, a little wiser, a little gentler reminds me that this is normal, that this feeling is not flawed, that of course I need self-care time. 

I punched out some of my anger this morning on the bag, boxing gloves on, left and right hooking and jabbing. Anger at the pressure I put on myself, anger at my two kids who seem to have it in for one another, anger at the comparison of myself to other mothers on Facebook, anger at how having children shifts a marriage. It felt freeing. Exercise, sweating, exertion-other ways that bring me relief and perspective. I also cried in the arms of my fellow workout buddy and my trainer. Physical and emotional releasing all in an hour.

I want to put this out into internet space too because I see all of this as a challenge, as an opportunity to examine, accept, and shift towards greater peace and gentleness. I know that parenting is hard, that there will be moments when it is not fun, and I see these moments as opportunities to steer towards a greater way of living. I tell myself that suffering is optional and now I need to find the ways to make that a truth in my day-to-day life. 

 

Fragility

In the early morning hours in the rocking chair, slowly moving back and forth, her downy hair against my chin, her warm little body snug against mine. A time of dreaminess, half awake from my own slumber, and softness. I leave her room, she back to sleep, and I am struck by the fragility of this parenting experience. How fragile I can feel in my children’s presence, how this sort of love breaks and mends your heart at the same time, how you don’t want more moments to pass and have them get bigger too fast, grasping to keep childhood alive in their little hearts and minds for as long as possible. The constant balance between being their rock and letting them go into the world. It is such a thin branch between the two necessities. In the early morning, when I am rocking Bee, I try to keep everything slow and just be present in her baby company. I take mental photos to store away for the years to come about how it felt to hold my daughter in her most vulnerable and innocent state.

Dropping Him Off at School...

"I'm excited, Mommy!" Words that I love to hear as we battle the traffic to the other end of town, counting the dump trucks as we go, making our way to Sam's new school. Also slightly bittersweet, his desire to be somewhere where I am not, these small steps of independence marching him towards a more grown up life. My little boy who, as cliche as it sounds, was only a baby yesterday. This smart, small person who has great ideas, remembers all sorts of things and shows kindness and empathy to others. I pick him up from school and try to dig the answers to my prying questions out of him-what did you do today, did you eat your lunch, how long was your nap, did you play with any other kids...I want to back off, give him space, let his experiences spill out of him as he relaxes back into being with his mom and sister. But I also want to know that he was happy, felt safe, had fun, laughed, was nourished and loved for who he is...big wants, full hopes. Honestly, there is a part of me that is also excited to drop Sam off at school. To have time to just be with Phoebe or to be by myself, to flex the weak muscles of the other aspects of my being and pretend, fleetingly, that it is just myself whom I am responsible for. With that, I end up missing Sam desperately, entering the familiar dance that is such a big part of parenthood: wanting to be close to my children and wanting to run away from them.

It feels good to return here to this blog, to get something down about this journey, to continue to try to make sense of parenting while surrendering to the realization that it will never be completely figure-outable.

Transitions

The ups and downs of ones life take shape on a daily, monthly and yearly basis like the rise and fall of a chest with breath. The up is really no better than the down except that it might feel more enjoyable in the moment. Really all the mountains and all the valleys are equally significant to a full, ever expanding and miraculous life. Like most, change is difficult to me. I used to be the little girl that would cry at night in her bed because I didn't want to grow up, I didn't want childhood to not be mine anymore. I still cry about growing up. And can so easily romanticize the past to death, especially as I notice my body changing, my capacity to stay up late dwindle, and motherhood alter my independence. Change is so necessary though (and inevitable), movement that adds challenge, exploration, discovery and beauty to our lives. How dull it would be to have everything stagnant. To have a body that never changed. To eat the same foods day in and day out. To live in the same house, do the same job and have the same routines until the end of your life. To not be able to experience all the stages of raising a child.

I have to remind myself of this last statement often these days. The growth in Sam has brought greater connection, as his comprehension has blossomed and his attunement to the world has awakened. Like a little flower bud, he has unfolded to the light of this big world. And with growth, comes challenge. With awareness comes a greater sense of personal want, of the ability to express (in cries) what is desired. No longer go with the flow and whatever mom and dad wants. Alive to the world is a little man that knows what he wants, likes his own routines, and is developing preferences.

It is hard not to pigeonhole this stage of development, see the immediate frustrations as so big that they block out the bigger picture of why we are even raising a child. Why are we raising a child? I have asked myself this, usually in the moments when I am mourning my past childless life. Why did we choose to bring a child into this world? And then there are moments that explode my heart open, that take my momentary wonder and love and happiness to another degree never thought possible before Sam. His smile, his personality, his laugh, his Samness, even his cries which signify his desires, which means he has a voice. I chose to have a child because it is the greatest creative act ever. I chose to have a child because I get to relive childhood in a way, get to experience all the fun of splashing in mud puddles, reading the same book over and over again, and getting messy with fingerpaint.

August 1

Gratitudes: 1. The sunset this morning, the wind blowing the warm air. Taking a moment to breathe it all in.

2. My children. They challenge and delight me and leave me a better person for it all at the end of the day.

3. A day spent on the water, paddle boarding, seeing beavers and osprey.

4. My bed and now nice it feels to sleep in...now if we could only get a little more!

5. The smell of the hollyhocks while I sit on the porch. Big towering flowers with a soft scent.

Last Day of July

Returning to this, needing to write, not sure if this is the place I want to be most honest on. 1. The wind in the trees behind me, refreshing breeze after a hot day.

2. Oprah and Deepak meditations. Wanting to live this life more gratefully and therefore, more gracefully.

3. Being open and sharing with other moms, honest about our experiences and our thoughts.

4. Sleeping in and waking up to Phoebe grins and shakes.

5. Being on KHOL today and feeling part of this community, love certain aspects of this place. My home.

I am on the cusp of big growth. Feeling scared and fearful but knowing that the only way to comfort is through vulnerability. I had the thought today, as I looked across the street at the house of my perpetually unhappy neighbor, that I don't want to end up like her. Angry and bitter. What do I have to lose? What is the worst thing that could happen by using my voice? Speaking in mumble jumble here, but it still feels good.

Finding Joy in the Chaos

A trying day, a learning day. Each day a new way to grow as this parenthood journey leaves me bruised but braver, crazy but clearer. Gratitudes:

1. The hummingbird at the feeder, buzzing her tiny wings.

2. Phoebe's recognition of me and the light of her smile.

3. The sunset this evening and the peace of the sky.

4. The smell of muffins baking in the oven.

5. Being with my friend Meg, surrounded by beautiful art.

Day Two

Gratitudes: 1. Sunshine breaking through the fog, bringing warmth to the house.

2. Barre class, sweating, working out, feeling stronger, moving.

3. Breathe and remembering to use it in trying and hard moments.

4. My children's wide mouth grins.

5. Recognizing the struggle of parenthood with Jamie, having him to lean on.

There is so much to be grateful for. And I am.

Return

Gratitudes: 1. Sam's sweet gestures towards his friend, kindness on his face, caring in his actions. This little boy delights and challenges me daily.

2. Phoebe's opened mouth and newly expressed smile...laughter sometimes accompanies it already. It means so much to have a happy expression, to know that she recognizes and responds to who I am.

3. Being able to talk to my mom on the porch in the sunshine with the birds chirping all around us. Being able to see her and my dad daily.

4. The fierceness of the evening storm, mirroring my mood, ending in pink light. Trees thrashing, wind howling, the distant grumble of thunder. Softness following the turmoil.

5. Good, healthy food.

Returning to this blog feels clunky but important. As my feelings towards motherhood swing like a pendulum from side to side, sometimes changing in the matter of hours, the need to document and express becomes even more paramount. It amazes me that my reactions towards my current situation can go from pure bliss and awe in the fact that I get to be mother to two inspiring creatures to the feeling of wanting to flee and start a new life somewhere on my own. This is all such a practice, a process, just like art making. Ahh, art making...I will return to you one day soon.

Decisions

I have recently been offered the opportunity to take a part time job at a local school, teaching 9th and 10th graders art a couple of times a week. It is a wonderful school, and I am sure that I would learn so much about myself and how to guide teenagers through art-making practices. But I am so on the fence about whether this is how I want to use my time away from Sam. Use my time away from Sam...it is deeply precious and not to be taken lightly. Time with a baby is such a different experience. I sometimes think about how I used my time pre-Sam and shake my head at my naive and frivolous self. I try not to spend too long dwelling, as the present is all I have now to shape and form, but it is obvious that time has recast itself in a different role that plays supporting actor to my little son. If I am not going to be with Sam I want to be doing something that feeds my soul and furthers my dreams. I have such a fortunate situation with my parents coming to help take care of Sam and it seems like a gift that needs to be taken with reverence and respect. How do I want to use that time that is just for me? Do I want to teach high schoolers art? I could get so much inspiration from them, it is true. Or do I want to work on my Community Supported Art program, my new Starters project, and a body of work that has been in my head for a little while? I would need to provide structure for myself.

It is time to take some big steps that lead me down a path. I want to get clear on what to say yes to and what to say no to. Although I can see the beauty in so many directions and have interests that run the gamut, there is such peace in saying "yes" to one opportunity and seeing where the twists and turns take you. It is time to stop turning away from my own art and making a myriad of excuses for putting myself out there and using my creative voice. As I have written before, little Sam is my guide and my inspiration for moving forward towards a more creative light.

Valley Locked

Feeling locked into the hole that is Jackson is a common situation come spring. The need to escape and see new environments and strange faces is most poignant as the winter season dies down and spring-like signs begin to emerge. I think that this may be one of my longest stretches ever of being here without escaping to the east coast, a bustling city, or a climbing adventure. Life takes on a different flavor with a child, for sure, but I am realizing this is not to be used as an excuse for inaction. In fact, travel is more important than ever. I am not just referring to grand trips abroad with tons of planning and forethought...These trips are definitely important, especially in order to expose yourself and your family to different customs, cultures and people, but even day trips an hour away add new perspective to life. This past weekend we treated my parents to a day spent at Turpin Meadow Ranch. A remote destination down Buffalo Valley Road, just a little ways past the turn-off to Moran, Turpin Meadows offers a feeling of escaping, even though the towering Tetons are still the backdrop. The meandering, now frozen Buffalo River winds by small, updated cabins and a larger lodge that houses a cozy fire, an amazing kitchen, and ski rentals for the variety of cross-country travels on the grounds. Laidback, quiet, and food that rivals anything found in Jackson, it was hard to just do a day-trip. I wanted to stay for a week. Jamie and I wanted to be the ones running the place in fact!

Just driving away from familiar town, north into the Park where the sky opens up and the snowdrifts grow, felt refreshing. The rest of your life gets put on hold in new environments because your senses take center stage and bask in the discovery of new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Pulling Sam in the Burley on three miles of groomed track, sighting wolf tracks and hearing the birds chirping, surrounded by Ponderosa pines and dazzling blue sky. A warm, crackling fire and friendly hosts, homemade goodness on the tongue, the smell of real food being cooked. The slowness of pace, the simplicity of action, food, conversation. The quiet of being in the woods. I came back to Jackson rejuvenated because I had experienced something new, with my family, and turned off parts of my brain that are really automated (and not always helpful) in my familiar surroundings.

The weekend reminded me of the importance of getting away. How doing so reminds you of who you are at the core and allows your imagination to open up to what you can aspire to be. We will be back to Turpin Meadows, maybe in a new season so we can experience it anew. But the take away message is to explore, be curious, get out of dodge, and bask in the newness of experience.

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Reason

Yesterday I was in love with motherhood. Today I just liked it. The ups and downs of this journey amazes me constantly, how quickly the emotions rise and crest, jumbled into one wave. This is the most exhausting thing I have ever done, being a mother, and there are days when being in the moment seems impossible. I long for interaction, for adult conversation, for busyness, and completing a to-do-list. When I can stop thinking about the future or reminising about the past and really just be with Sam, my mood definitely improves. Going through the rough stuff, the moments when I want to run away to a different life, are important to acknowledge though as well. Today as I was watching my friends little boy, getting a taste for how it would be having two toddlers in my life, I was listening to Teri Gross on NPR. She was talking to Jennifer Senior who has written the new book All Joy, No Fun: The Modern Paradoxs of Parenthood. It was so interesting, and I want to go back and listen more carefully and read the book because there were nuggets in what she was talking about.  She spoke a bit about helicopter parents, about how in this day in age so many more parents have time to be involved in every aspect of their child's life. How that isn't all that good, really. Autonomy and the ability to do something by yourself is of great importance, a quality to start nurturing at a young age. I love watching Sam play by himself, how he dives into a book or creates these little made-up games. He can be by himself. I want to give him the space to explore, to make mistakes, to create successes. I want to keep my mouth shut more. And not do things for him when he is perfectly capable out of a desire for a quicker outcome.

Senior also spoke about how reasoning with a toddler is impossible because their prefrontal cortex is not developed and they have no comprehension of time. I had to chuckle as I am already starting to experience this phenomena with Sam, in his ripe old age of 13 months. Toddlers are completely in the moment, again that concept, and if we adults can relish that and recognize how much there is to learn from our little ones life will be a whole lot easier. There will always be the days when everything feels off...eating, napping, timing, etc. But there is beauty here too. Beauty in the chaos.

Starting Here

Returning to this practice, this place of emptying, spilling my day onto the screen for others to view and me to remember. It is getting to the point in motherhood where my life before a child is fading and my present is expanding into a forever future of being a mom. To a baby now a toddler, to a teenager to a young adult...the cycle of life will play out before my eyes as my own life continues onward. It is absolutely gorgeous and stunning to witness the transformation of your child, while at the same time the expansion of your heart in a way that you never knew it could stretch. Such deep welling of emotion that shocks me at moments, regular moments, with its intensity. Sam is love, utter love.

I am such a different person than almost two years ago. Crazy to think that around this time in 2012 Jamie and I flippantly decided I should go off birth control and see what happens. Our life would begin to change only a couple of months later, although deep denial kept us holding on to our independent lifestyles for as long as possible. I wasn't as brave then. Although courage is something that will always be a continuous struggle, I recognize that with the emergence of Sam in my life I try a little bit harder to be the person I want to be. At the same time, to like the person that I am. I have written about this often, about how Sam has changed my life for the better, but I am amazed daily at the impact that his little but humongous being has on my life. Again, Sam is love.

He puts himself to bed now after nursing. Eager to get in his crib with his Norman and blankie, to see the soothing lights from his turtle nightlight. Talking and laughing himself to sleep, happy till the very end (most nights anyway). So many lessons from this little one....I love you Sam.

Gratitudes

1. This beautiful morning with the sun glistening off of the snow and the magical mountaintops. It is going to be balmy out today! 2. For Jamie taking little dog up on the Pass with him...someday I will exercise with her again.

3. For my parents, my Mom walking Olive yesterday and my Dad putting up trim downstairs.

4. For the slowly growing paperwhites on the dining room table, about to open and share their white faces and sweet smell.

5. For my friend, Dreh, who came over yesterday and worked her magic on my poor hurt foot. Feeling better today!

 

Gratitudes: December 3

1. For Sam's sweet snuggle this morning, his downy baby hair against my cheek. 2. For our beautiful Christmas tree and the white lights that decorate it. It smells so sweet in the house.

3. My parents and their complete adoration of Sam.

4. The cool, crisp air in my lungs as I ran around East Jackson, Olive racing ahead of me.

5. Honest words.

Gratitudes- December 1

I would like to be on this blog more. If nothing else, I am planning on coming each day this month and posting my gratitudes. I want to adopt a regular gratitude practice and this feels like the right spot to begin at. 1. Sam's smile-continually lights up my life

2. My hot cup of tea this morning: Earl Grey with honey and half and half

3. My mom's muffins

4. My dad getting his knees wet while he sawed down our Christmas tree.

5. Our twinkling tree in the living room...Thank you tree.

10.5 Months!

I write these things and then don't post them! See the below from a couple of weeks ago... How did this semi-toddler replace the little dark-haired, wobbly-headed infant who slept in my arms? Now Sam hugs me and squirms away to explore the world on his hands and knees, finding the dogs toys and the tiniest bits of fluff on the wood floor. His vocabulary grows, his ability to feed himself develops, and his crawl picks up speed daily. I cut his hair this morning, just the front pieces that hung in front of his eyes like an indie rocker, and instantly he looked months older. What a fun age this is, his curious eyes eagerly eating up everything around him, his adventuresome nature peppered with the desire to still be close to mom, dad or grandparent. His laughter, his frantic turning of book pages, his excitement with the shower and his blossoming love of avocados. The personality of my little son becomes stronger everyday. And clearer, as if more of the puzzle is fit together to form the whole picture...the puzzle that never ends until we leave this body. I love that he is his own little person, that he was created by Jamie and I, but that his soul is completely and utterly his own.