It starts at 6 a.m. Every morning, no matter what time I went to sleep the night before, weekday or weekend, it begins.
My brain starts up, my eyes pop open, and I’m awake. More than awake, I’m on. It’s a persistent stream of ideas; To-Do lists; reminders; goals; aspirations; turns of phrase, working titles, dialogue, and deadlines; appointments; house errands; if the weather will be kind to me on my run; random thoughts about the world and how I’m moving through it; and also how I’m guiding the way for my son to do the same.
Sometimes the mental calisthenics kick in a full hour earlier. I’m talking well before the sun unfurls over the dim skies, my mind, it’s flooded with all of this … stuff.
Over the last year, I’ve made a very specific effort to quiet that mad spill of thought and chatter in the morning before I even open my eyes. I take deep breaths. I speak my gratitude for waking up to a new day, for my health, for my family. I send out good wishes to those who I know need them. And I try to set my intention for the day, plus name three things that I want to get done.
(I know. This might sound a little woo-woo. And that’s okay. It’s been working for me.)
My three things are almost always about writing and work, so they will shift and change daily as my deadlines do. But often my intention for the day is the same: find balance.
I say it and mean it. I do. Still, there’s a side of me — a snarky, eye-rolling version tucked away behind my nerve — that snorts each time I say it. Find balance. Heh. Yeah, right. Good luck with allll that, homey. (See what I mean? Just shady as hell, that one.)
My chuckles and skepticism come from the fact that I’m a writer and a mother. Both of these things are so stitched into the fabric of who I am; they gobble up a lot of space and time and attention. The notion of balance feels elusive to me. Hell, real talk? Balance sounds like some sort of fiction that a halfway convincing snake oil salesman talked me into.
But I keep the faith, keep believing that finding balance is a real thing. In fact, I’ve been looking, in earnest, for ways that I might actually brush up against something that feels like it. I’ve made adjustments to my routines: reading a book in bed first thing in the morning instead of checking my iPhone; shutting down all tech everything by 10 p.m.; swearing off running errands before lunchtime; and even writing items down on my To-Do list that I’ve already done just so I can have the thrill of literally crossing it off the agenda.
Most of these changes have helped me, acting as a sort of course correction, allowing me to feel more mindful and calm throughout the day. Steady, but not necessarily balanced.
The thing is, despite any gains that I’ve made with these upgraded systems and routines, there are two conflicting memes that are at the core of my imbalance:
- Work Hard. That’s the only way to put a hand on success. Or as Alec Baldwin’s balls-of-steel character in the classic Glengarry Glen Ross said, “A-B-C. Always be closing.”
- Smell the Roses. Make time for self-care and living this life because, as we’ve often been told, you’ll never hear anyone on their deathbed say that they wished they worked more. Or, as the iconic Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Trying to find the line between Work Hard and Making Time to Live, that’s the challenge. It will always be a challenge. Maybe the secret sauce is knowing this, and accepting that some days you’ll teeter and even lean more to one side, but if you keep your eyes fixed on forward, you won’t fall.
Author of THE THUNDER BENEATH US. Journalist. Runner. Mother. Creator of Ms. Mary Mack. Living this life the best way I know how.
Originally posted on BlogHer.
Toast behind pillow.
Sippy cups with weaponized old milk at the bottom of it behind the couch.
Cheerios and Gold Fish crackers crushed and crusty under everything.
Where’s the strangest place you ever found old, forgotten food that your kids left behind? And what was it?
Found in the bathroom. It’s only about a day old — this time around. (-_-)
Last week was not my favorite. I was still trying to kick The Cough and get my energy back. Then out of no where, The Youngster got hit with a stomach virus. And by hit, I mean hit harrrrrd. Clobbered, actually. He ended up not being able to keep Gatorade or even water down. This lead to his being very dehydrated. We had to go straight to the ER from his pediatrician’s office — in an ambulance.
The IV fluids helped, but he was in such bad shape that the doctors admitted him to the hospital, where we stayed for two nights.
Yeah. Like I said, not my favorite.
Oh, and then there was the part where my husband woke up like dis: high fever and severe body aches.
I was practically tripping over myself trying to take care of both my homies before the ER thing happened. It was a mess, and I’m glad it’s behind us. Now I’m happy to report that the household is healthy and back on the good foot. To celebrate, how about a #giveaway?
Recently, The Youngster has been talking more about music. Pop music. He’s been seeing the commercial for the new “Kidz Bop 27” CD on television and singing along with a few of the song clips. It’s adorable. But it’s also, like, wait… are you growing up on me?
Honestly, the whole kidz music thing was barely in my periphery until maybe the last month. My son basically listens to whatever we listen to, and that can range from Jimmy Cliff and the tUnE-yArDs to Sia and Sam Smith. But I decided to give the Kidz a listen, and I’m totally into it. Catchy ditties, no parental-advisory lyric concerns — what’s not to like? Plus, them kidz can belt! Some of these young’uns sound better than your fave pop star.
So, good news: One of you can also get in on the fun with us. We’re giving away one free copy of the brand new “Kidz Bop 27” CD. And all you have to do is share a song lyric that you’ve discovered you got terribly wrong. Fun!
The winner will be announced next week.
Back when he was the man I married and not the father of our son, I used to greet my husband with deep kisses and long hugs as he stepped through our door. Now, nearly 10 years together, it takes real energy for me to muster anything more than an honest smile and brow raise.
What changed? We became parents five-and-half years ago. And, more specifically, I became someone’s mother.
I still love this man with everything I have. I like him as much, too. It’s just that something shifted once this tiny person entered the picture, forcing me to splinter off into other beings: mother, wife, me. It’s a challenge moving through these different selves, trying to preserve them as whole and real. Too often, one version of me absorbs everything — all the time, all the attention, all the dedication, love and tenderness — while the others sit at low simmer on the backburner, dwindling.
The first year of motherhood, I was completely consumed by trying to do my best for this child. I was pressed for time all the time, juggling everything and putting the Mom part of me at the top of the list. Through it all, I kept hearing assurances by many (doctors, elders, other mom friends) that this was completely normal and to be expected. My husband and I became more like teammates, tackling this overwhelming thing called new parenthood, and less like crazy-in-love idealists determined to straighten out this tilted world. We laughed and learned and poured love all over our new family of three. Still, something felt off, something was missing. My husband and I stayed very close, but not in the way we used to be, not like those kid-free days. Although my husband was ever thoughtful and kind, there seemed to be sorrow there as well. He was pining for his wife. Truth told, I missed The Wife too. But I didn’t know how to bring that part of me to the forefront. Trying to find my way back to how it once was — husband and wife vs. everyone else — required a level of energy that most days I simply didn’t have.
It’s just that something shifted once this tiny person entered the picture, forcing me to splinter off into other beings: mother, wife, me.
I started talking about this drift apart, about this internal struggle — Mom vs. Wife — with other women. Instead of assurances that it’s normal and to be expected, I was met with deep nods, “Amens” and sometimes tears. These other women, some who were five, six, nine years into motherhood, were in the midst of the same battle. They, too, understood the importance of shining some of that dedicated focus on raising healthy, happy kids onto the other vital relationship in the house: the one with their spouse. And they were looking, in earnest, for ways to turn things around.
For me, being aware means taking action, making changes to help us move from being two ships passing into sailing together on the Love Boat. It starts small, but it’s sure and must be steady to be effective. So now, when this man I chose to marry steps through the front door, I’m making every effort to pause from building LEGOs, look up from my laptop and into his eyes to say, “hello.”
Originally posted on Mom.me.