Parenting: The balancing act

standard May 11, 2015 1 response

Balance. It’s that elusive thing we’re all after all the time.

Balance between productive time and down time. Between being a firm role mode and a fun parent. Between work and family. Between being a parent and spouse. Between all the people who need you and, well, you. Between taking care of the house and taking care of the people in it.

It’s the thing that makes parenting feel like a never ending tightrope walk. You’re focused on taking the next step, placing it carefully down, balancing everything at the ends of your hands… and hoping against hope that nothing will come shake your wire and make you drop everything.

Because when you drop everything it takes forever to pick it all back up and feel stable again.

At the beach this weekend I spotted a row of stacked rocks. It happened to be Mother’s Day so I had mothering on the brain, but the rock formations reminded me of the balancing act we all constantly do.

Rocks on the Beach

 

As we walked by the log on which all the little towers perched on, my sister offhandedly asked if I’d noticed all the sand under each one.

“The sand is what keeps them balanced.”

It reminded me that even though it often feels like we’re balancing up there, on our wire, all by ourselves, juggling all the things life throws at us, we’re not alone. We have lots of little grains of sand helping us balance. (And yes, I know my metaphors are all tangled up. Just go with it.)

We have friends who stop by for coffee and offer a supportive ear. We have family members who know us better than we know ourselves. We have spouses who share the burdens. We have teachers who share the kid worries with us. Some days, we even just have the person who smiles knowingly as they pass you at the grocery store. Or the friends in the computer and in our phones, who aren’t with us, but are still doing this thing alongside us, ready to offer a quick word of encouragement, commiseration, or even levity.

Parenting. The ultimate balance. And the ultimate test of our ability to notice the grains of sand that hold us up.

Grains of sand

 

Life is fragile… and absurd

standard May 4, 2015 1 response

On Saturday morning I woke to the news that Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg had passed away unexpectedly while on vacation. Now, to most of the world, this is a sad news tidbit people learned about over their morning coffee and forgot long before the day had grown warm, but to our corner of the country, where he was well known and loved, the news threw everyone for a loop.

Successful, healthy men aren’t supposed to die at 47.

To me, the news was particularly poignant, as is all news about dead parents these days. It doesn’t take much to bring tears to my eyes or make me relapse into my grief funk.

I rallied as best as I could. Took the little and a friend to a skate boarding lesson and rallied as best as I could.

And then, while meandering around downtown, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and discovered that she was battling bone cancer.

I felt panicky for the rest of the day. Short of breath. Shaky. Terrified. Life felt just too fragile to bear.

Most of the time, we live in happy denial of all the things that can tear our friends and family away from us. We don’t know about most of the illnesses that can claim or radically alter lives. We conveniently forget about how dangerous it is to even walk down the street or up the stairs.

And then, sometimes, you get hit in the face with one reminder or three. And BAM, the mere thought of how fragile life is, of how easy it is to lose someone, brings you to your knees and steals the breath from your lungs.

I’d love to say that this temporary epiphany made me more loving to my family, made me want to hug everyone close, but really, all it did was make me want to hide under the covers and lose myself in a book. Even when fictional characters die, they’re never really gone. Just flip a few pages back, and presto, they’re back.

I’m sure that in the not so distant future my denial will be securely back in place and I’ll be, once again, able to get on with my life without gasping for breath every time I glimpse what life would be like if it were missing more of my people.

In the meantime I feel about as fragile as life really is.

Life is Fragile

I’m not ready for it to be true

standard April 22, 2015 5 responses

This morning, as I lay in bed listening to the sounds of the kids having breakfast, it occurred to me that, even though I logged over 65 hours at my computer last week and wrote about a million words, I hadn’t written a single one for myself.

I haven’t even wanted to pick up a notebook to journal.

Well, wanted is a big word. Let’s be honest here, if I gave myself the time, I’d probably want to, but I’m so damn scared to let myself think even for a moment, that I’ve buried myself in work to the point of falling into bed, brain dead, every night, without a spare thought or feeling.

It’s just so much easier to write ad copy about heavy duty motor oil or the latest innovations in cyber security than it is to try to wrap my brain around a world where my dad isn’t safely tucked into his life in Toronto, battling for the opportunity to eventually come visit, to travel, to reclaim his life.

He’s never going to come visit.

He’s never going to meet my dog.

He never even saw my house.

He barely knew my kids.

And all because we were waiting for him to get better so he could finally do all that.

It is so much easier to just pretend that March never happened than to face the fact that he’s just… gone.

So I write. I brainstorm. I conceptualize. I edit. I rewrite. I brainstorm some more. I write endless copy for emails no one will read. I think up banner ads that will never see the light of day. I craft perfect Facebook posts that Facebook will never serve to our fans. I think up witty tweets a handful of people will notice as they stream by.

I don’t work on my novel.

I don’t journal.

And most importantly I try really hard not to think.

But the thoughts slip in anyway at truly unexpected moments.

On Malibu Beach in Los Angeles, where the sight of a lifeguard station threw me back onto our old flowery couch where my dad and I used to watch endless Baywatch reruns together.

When a small motorcycle passes me on the road and I remember him trying to teach me to drive his and I drove it up the garage wall, leaving tire marks the next tenants must have wondered about for years.

When I hesitate before cleaning my new cast iron pan and hear his voice reminding me that I really do need to season it properly.

When I watch Dottie’s puppies squirm around try to think of names for them. He was so damn good at naming dogs.

Then I fight back tears. I take deep breaths. I try to slow down my heart rate. I stop the rising panic. I force the thoughts away.

Because I hate crying.

And I’m just not ready for it to be true.

Living of a different kind of life

standard March 10, 2015 1 response

90% of my days are the same. I get up, get dressed, pack lunches for the kids, schlep them to school, come home, eat a little breakfast, and sit myself down at my computer.

Most of the time I already know what I’m going to write. I have articles to write, social media posts to craft, ad campaigns to conceptualize. The words are there, somewhere in my head, I just need to let them out – via my fingers – into the computer.

Other days I just stare at the screen. Tired. Drained. Completely tapped out of anything creative or original to add to the miasma that is already swirling around the Internet.

Those are the days I long for a regular 9-5 job where I can just react to what is handed to me instead of having to create something from scratch.

Those are the days when I give in to my endless daydream of owning a little country inn. Couple rooms, kitchen, small common area. My days would entail lots of cleaning, some cooking, administrative duties, and maybe a couple surprises here and there.

It sounds like an insane amount of work. And yet, it sounds like the most restful thing I can think of.

Imagine a life where you always know what to do, where you always have something concrete to point to at the end of the day. Today I did that and it had that effect on that person. Such bliss.

So when people go and do something crazy like offering up their incredible country inn, not for sale, but to the winner of a writing contest. I almost have trouble controlling the drool pooling in my mouth.

Inn! Words! I mean DUDE. I could be all over that.

And then I remember that I have those children that I have to tend to every day and that husband who actually likes his job (most days) and that we actually enjoy living in California. And Maine, while pretty, just ew on the whole snow and winter thing.

And I love the writing, the sitting at my desk with the puppy at my feet, letting the words flow freely from my brain to the screen.

It’s just that some days I think I’d rather be baking a pie for my paying guests and planning out a week’s worth of breakfasts before I go clean up a room that has just been vacated and give my brain a bit of a break.

Until I remember once again how much love to write. How much I need to write. Then I sit back down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and get to work.

Where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens.