Friday, May 4, 2012

what is mine - part three, this, here, now

Recently I mentioned being happy - so happy at last with where I am - and wanting to tell you about it.  After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I finally gave in to the need to to tell you where I've been, first.  Part one was about my dreams, and you can read it here.  Part two was about my heart, found here.  And now I think I'm finally ready to wrap this up for you:

We live in all we seek.  The hidden shows up in too-plain sight.  It lives captive on the face of the obvious - the people, events, and things of the day - to which we as sophisticated children have long since become oblivious.  What a hideout:  Holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color.
Annie Dillard, For the Time Being 

Lena was born perfect, and beautiful, and absolutely magnetic.  People, strangers, were drawn to her from day one, and I still believe that she will grow up to be the sort of person whose presence is always noticed, always sought out.  It was impossible not to fall in love with her from the first moment she was placed on my chest.  Alright, maybe the second moment - I'm pretty sure my thought during the first moment was, "What on earth is he giving me, is he crazy?  I'm in labor, here!"

But then, there she was.  My daughter, handed to me by my husband, all three of us in a cocooned state of shock as half a dozen nurses hustled around us, the doctor sewed stitches, IVs were changed, photos were taken, congratulations were given.  I have a vague memory of all of that.  What I really remember is the weight of my baby on my chest and Jimmy by my side.  He asked me if I still thought we should name her Lena, and when I said yes Jimmy said to her, "Hello, Lena Rose."  And I'll be damned if that baby didn't lift up her head and turn to answer her daddy with wide blue eyes.  You say newborns don't do that? 

Mine did.

When Lena began to toddle and talk and play and chase our cats around the house I decided I wanted her to have a sibling:  someone with whom to laugh, fight, share secrets, and to have as family when Jimmy and I grew old and began to fail.  And although I couldn't imagine even the possibility of a baby who wasn't Lena, Eve was Eve was Eve, from the very beginning and always and forever.  She arrived with lighting speed after just forty minutes of hard labor, and I like to say I'm still in shock.  But it's true.  I really am.  She seems to grow on purpose when we aren't looking, and I think she likes it that way.  Already she is two years old, and already she knows how to be coy, hiding her smiles and stifling her laughs, preferring to keep you guessing, gazing at you under long black eyelashes with eyes that bring strangers across crowded rooms on a regular basis.  I believe that's referred to as "enchanting."  My Eve Adele.

I love my girls. 

I love them, but being a full-time mom was never exactly on my agenda, and it's not as though we've been living in luxury since moving to one income (even though doing so meant the most financial sense when Lena was born).  We live in a teeny tiny rental home - the girls share a little bedroom, there's only one small bathroom, guests have to sleep on the pull-out sofa, there's no space for a piano - and purchasing a home in Los Angeles doesn't come cheap.  And when Jimmy goes on hiatus during the summers, he doesn't draw a paycheck.  And I had once had all those dreams...

So I freelanced.  Actually, I still do, working from home as much as I can, managing creative projects and artists and writers, editing copy and directing design and overseeing artwork.  I've always enjoyed it, but it is spotty work, catch as catch can, almost nonexistent when the economy was at its worst.  And I've agonized, desperate to fix the situation.  How can I find more work from home?  How can I bring in more income?  Should I go back to school?  What am I doing??  What am I going to be when I grow up???

I love my girls, but I couldn't seem to raise them and take care of my needs at the same time.  I thought, at the very least, I could use this time while they are young to work on my skills, and maybe when they grow older and go to school I could go back to work and be something.   But I couldn't make it happen.  Even when we put Evie into preschool this last January and I began to have three days to myself every week, there was always something to be done on those days.  Groceries, errands, laundry, doctor visits, phone calls, vacuuming.  Not to mention how sick we all were all the way through March.  I could get nothing else done.

Every day I woke up frustrated.  Unbelievable that the night went by so fast.  Unbelievable that here was another day to deal with sippies and diapers and spills and small demands, at the end of which, once again, nothing would have been accomplished.

I'm pretty sure I woke up with that feeling almost every day for the past four years.  Every day until a few weeks ago, over Easter weekend.

We spent the holiday weekend in Sacramento on a last-minute visit to Jimmy's family.  When we had a chance to sneak out for lunch, just the two of us, we jumped.  We sat in a pristine new black and white cafeteria next to a bright window overlooking a patio and water below, enjoying our meal, enjoying a chance to be together and talk without interruption.  At least, I was.  But when the conversation turned, as it always seems to, to my frustration of not making any progress in life, I could see Jimmy hit the end of his rope with me.  "What is it you want?  Give me just one thing.  One thing.  One goal.  One?"

I had no answer.

I told you all about my depression, and about finally getting treatment and medication for it just last fall.  And I've been so much better.  But the thing I'm learning is that my brain chemistry is better, but my body still has habits.  I've been functioning in unhealthy ways since I was in high school, and after nearly twenty years it's not only difficult to change my unhealthy ways, it's extremely difficult to recognize them.  Occasionally I do.  Usually it's little things - trips to Target when I don't need anything, a compulsion to keep the television on all day, an inability to accept compliments.  In the hours after that lunch with Jimmy, though, I felt a sea change in my whole being.  Almost literally, really, I could feel my spirit changing like currents shifting and flowing in reverse, filling me and bringing refreshment in ways I hadn't known were possible.

(I don't often hear anything like a voice from God, and I wish I did, but maybe this is how He speaks to me.)

I was also in the middle of reading a book written by a blogger I've followed for years, Stephanie Nielson's Heaven is Here.  The book is really about her physical and spiritual recovery after a terrible plane crash (and it is a wonderful book, truly, please go buy a copy for yourself), but I had followed Stephanie's blog before the crash, too.  And honestly, after a while, I had given up following her.  As a pretty, happy mother of four, she seemed to get through her days with such ease and joy and energy, always cooking and crafting, always making every day special for her family, and eventually I just couldn't relate.  I thought I was irritated with her, but I think I was irritated with me. 

When I heard she had been hurt back in 2008, I began following her story again, and this time I've kept up with her, pre-ordering her book and reading it as soon as it was published just last month.  I wanted to know more about her journey after the plane crash, but what she wrote about her life before the accident had a much more profound effect on me than I could have anticipated.  It was just something about the way she described her girlhood dreams for her life - for marriage and children and spending her time making a happy home.   It's not that I thought this is how it should really be.  Instead, I think I was impressed that she allowed herself to want those things, and pretty much just those things.  I very much believe in education and work and choosing your own path, but it occurred to me suddenly that I hadn't ever allowed myself to want what I had.  I'd never given myself permission to enjoy my beautiful family, my amazing husband, my gorgeous girls, my little home, and to be content with those things.  Those wonderful things.

I hadn't realized, somehow, that what I had could be enough for me.  

And it is.  Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I like all those things that I thought were getting in the way of life.  I like the grocery shopping and the runs to Target, I like keeping the house clean and trying to keep it pretty and nice, I like filling sippies with chocolate milk and I like coloring and playing tea party.  I still don't like cooking dinner.   But I also realized that most of all I really, really really really do like my girls and my husband.  So much.  They make me crazy sometimes - sometimes very often they make me crazy, each in their own special way - but heavens to Betsy if spending time with them isn't the best thing in the whole world I don't know what is.

As soon as I allowed myself to look at my life this way I felt five years, maybe ten years, lift away from my shoulders.  What a relief, what an obvious thing, to spend my days enjoying what I have, this, right here, and now. 

I personally know probably two dozen girlfriends who already seem to be living their lives this way.  Why it took me so long, so many years, and three terribly long blog posts to get to this conclusion, I'll never know.  Maybe I'm too slow or too clumsy and dense to have figured it out sooner.  But I got here, and here is beautiful.

I still have dreams for myself.  I still have things I want to accomplish, things I want to learn, places I'd like to be.  And of course I still have wants and wishes that I hope will come to pass sooner than later.  Freelance work will still be a part of my life, and to be honest, if I received a phone call today about a full time job, there would be a serious discussion.  But the point is that I'm not worried about these things so much anymore.  I don't need it all fixed and laid out for me now, and I no longer feel incomplete because I don't have a career or a job title attached to my name.  

It wasn't even hard.  The moment I gave myself permission to be content with every thing I have and don't have, I found the contentment rushing and spilling out into all the corners of my life as though a dam had been breached, sending its waters into a parched valley.

I understand how lucky I am to have what I have right now.  I understand that I already had it good, and it just took me more time than it should have to figure that out.  I understand that I still have a lot to learn, and a lot of tough days ahead of me.  I understand that one day, maybe soon, the circumstances in my life will change, and I'll need to learn to switch gears and find contentment there, too.  But I think that's just it.  That's what I didn't realize before.  As my friend Katie said, This is only for a season.  This is what I have right now.  This is what is mine: this, here, now.  And what is mine, right now, is very very good.  And I am going to be present in it.


kittymclewin said...

I can very much relate to this...and I'm still learning the dance...even after all these years.

liveworkstyle said...

melanie, you are so brave to share your personal journey. you are not alone at all in how you feel. congratulations on making it to the other side. you do deserve it!