Do you ever just feel off? I’ve felt off for awhile now. I’ve chalked it up to winter blues. Seasonal effective disorder and all of that…..Or? or? Could it be that I had a child three months ago and am still trying on rockstar mom for size . I’m wearing my full-time work suit ,crafty mom shirt , PTA mom attire, adult-fun outfit and writer apparel. As I am sure you would imagine, I’m failing; miserably. This is not a pity post, please…but currently we have A strep throat, RSV, sibling jealousy, ear infection, growth spurt kind of thing going on here and I have been known to heave hidden sobs for a hot, hot minute.
In any case, I haven’t been feeling it. In fact, I’ve been downright paranoid….wondering if I lost my little gratitude sparky spark for good.
This weekend while Bobby was down and out with strep and Judah had God knows what and Augie kept crying , I went to get coping wine that went BAD (are you kidding?) I called it a night and the next morning turned to church. The homily spoke of light. Can others see your light? Are you IT no matter what? Is it dim? Is it on? If not…..wait!!! If not? Here I’ve been figuring that I’m a failure because the light went dim. My graciousness went missing. But the pastor speaking for the man Himself, is not saying “you’re a jerk,” or “you failure” Instead he’s asking WHY? What part of your circuit is not connected? And right there in the pew, I wept for me. Then I realized the silliness of weeping for being overwhelmed and then I wept for being selfish. After that, I decided to be the light! I’ve been just so self loathing and disappointed and bored with all of our ill will. I actually went to church to collect holy water, which I did (in ziplock ware.) A little girl asked her mommy what I was doing and a mommy answered “well that’s none of your business ” to which I offered a desperate smile…The priest picked to speak of light on this day and I happened to go there to collect holy water and and a homily that acted as duct tape holding the flailing pieces of me together. I am smitten by it, to be full of a humbling guiding light for those who need it. It sets me free from being the flood light that I worry about. The one that makes me wonder when exactly it went missing . I am not a beacon, I am a shepard and so I took from the church what I needed…..
I carried home that holy water and said little prayers as I (probably not so sacrificially) finger sprinkled it out of its Tupperware around my house. Bobby with his strep throat was amused by me, but none the less committed to my cause. I became the light for our little family instead of part of its destruction. BE THE LIGHT. Those three little words changed everything for me when I decided to shine for others. Miraculously, that dim candle light of love grew wildly as it sparked the light in others. BE THE LIGHT…..
(if I ever ink up more of my body , you can be sure it will be with those 3 words)
The tornado of phenomenons have swept through my life, the dust has somewhat settled ,and recently,I have finally had a moment to step back and check out its impact …..I have been pregnant four times in the last 5 years. I am not even sure how that is possible? In the last five years I have gotten married, birthed 3 amazing humans, taken a new job and bought house. Oh, and did I mention that I did all of this at non-springy-chicken age of 42 ,while learning more than I thought I’d ever need to know about Down syndrome?
Here I sit, among the beautiful pile of happenings that are my life and I critique why things are not the same as they were before.
The superficial come first to mind because, well, they are what I see. Where did all these wrinkles come from and why hasn’t this pooch gone away yet? I also wonder why I can’t seem to get together some sort of routine or a love life with my husband. I’m just a few months out from having my third son yet I am completely unforgiving to me.
Where is my old body? My sense of order? My clean house? My unwavering gratitude? It’s all jumbled up with midnight feedings and wiping noses and teaching a class of five year olds their letters and numbers. The twister that is my life continues and the storm shows no signs of slowing.
I am not one to be at peace with its glorious chaos. Rather, I am at war with it. I’m not at war with my angel children, my patient husband or demanding job. I am on the front line with none other than myself. Why am I not handling it better? Why isn’t the weight falling off? Why haven’t I unpacked all those boxes or “Nate Berkus’d” all the rooms in my house? Why aren’t my thank you cards done? How did I let my roots get so bad? Why isn’t there a hot, healthy ,dinner on the table at 5:30?
I’ve gone ahead and put it all on me. Now, I never have considered myself an overachiever, perfectionist, or competitive, but somehow in the midst of this cyclone, I have demanded beautiful serenity. I have expected an oxymoronic existence that is an impossible feat.
So, where to go from here? I’ve acknowledged that my line of thinking is out of line. Now what? I struggle with how to stop spinning. The answer evades me….. however, a few sayings come to mind. “Live with intent,” “discipline is the difference between what you want now and what you want most,” and a favorite from the wisest man I know( my dad,) “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Live with intent: sometimes I find myself trying so hard to win at life that I’m failing miserably and living with neglect. I’m mindlessly eating a chocolate bar while paying bills, watching a show and half assedly answering my sons endless questions about all things ever. I’m failing us all. Staying present is so hard for my multitasking personality but it is so important. I’m missing it. I’m missing being my very best me because I’m so busy being multiple versions of myself.
Discipline: I’ve always been real into immediate gratification. So, when work has been long and therapists don’t trickle out until well after 5, we say screw it let’s just order a pizza. When weeks drag on and on because we are quarantined, and then we finally get well, I say screw housework let’s go to the mall. I have that third drink when I know it will exhaust me the next day. I trade valuable home improvement moments for screen time. I pick now over waiting…. Then the guilts come. Why did I eat that crap? drink too much? waste my day? Forget to pray? Discipline is the yield sign to regrets. Until I have more order, I need to slow down the way that yellow sign urges me to.
How do I eat that elephant? One slow, deliberate, disciplined bite at a time. I will not blink and be my high school weight or wake to find every room in the house designed the way I intended. My wants will be sloth like because my needs make my head spin and I can’t change that. My options are few. Either abandon the elephant all together because of it’s enormity OR count small nibbles as victories. That one minute plank- victory. A full, ten, uninterrupted minutes painting with my toddler-victory. A conscientious conversation over a glass of red with my husband-victory. A bed made, pillows and all -victory. A crumbless high chair-victory…and then before you know it you can see the trunk, or the tail, depending on which end you started at. That gives you the power to keep going… and next thing you know ,you are in a tanktini , lying on a beach chair, with a Mai-tai, marveling at how the aftermath of a typhoon made everything lush and beautiful…..now THAT is some pachyderm food for thought.
Facebook has a way of reminding you of the good bad and ugly that you’ve lived throughout your years on social media…a ghost of Christmas past if you will. All of your words and pictures return to either delight or humiliate you and usually we pick the most savory to re-share.
Well, I’m here to blow the lid off of my perfect seasonal scenarios, my humorous holiday cards and my chosen merry memories. I have re- read my past and every year my comments seem to consist of the same seasonal sulking :
“I can’t wait for Christmas to be over.”
“I’ve put off shopping again because I’m dreading the crowds”
“I have a Christmas food hangover. I will be so glad to get back into a routine ”
And … many other bah-humbug variations of my Scroogie self.
The truth is, I’m not here to make it right. I’m not here to tell you how I was mistaken and how I’ve suddenly seen the twinkly lights. The truth is something different all together.
The afore mentioned nasty nuggets were BC (before children) and now things are a a bit altered. Now, I would give up all of my everything just to watch the glitter in Calvin’s eyes that shines brightest during Christmas. Judah doesn’t really understand Christmas yet and Augie is still trying to adjust to life outside the womb….but Calvin, with his Christmas concerts, and constant questions about his beloved Rudolph? Be-still my heart. It’s freaking intoxicating. I love the way he tries so hard to be good because Santa is watching (our shelves don’t even have an elf yet) and how he believes in every part of the season with his whole damn heart. The way he loves baby Jesus and His story is special and spectacular. Living Christmas through his eyes is truly my favorite gift of all. Unfortunately there is a cynic in me. I recognize how with every passing season, his beautiful belief will fade the tinsiest bit and It makes my heart hurt.
Then there is the family and friend part of Christmas. I love how everyone is kind and how we all dole out more hugs and holiday cheer. There is so much joy in the Christmas parties where everyone shows up with their best clothes and best foot forward. I love all of the togetherness and trading stories of tradition.
It’s painful making sure everybody gets the pretty card and the perfect gift. But, I am reminded of no pain no gain and how the gains are so enchanting. It’s a lot of work cooking the most delicious culinary creations and preparing for the parties. It is so much getting ready that sometimes I’ve exhausted myself before the whole celebration has commenced.
Preparation steals my zero credit card balance, costs me hours of sleep and takes time that I could have spent snuggling my little baby as I watch him growing right in front of my busy eyes… But somehow I am ready or I have to be ready because it’s here and the traditions are about to keep traditioning… And I am tired or maybe I’m not. It doesn’t matter because either way it all still flies by in a hazy blaze of colorful paper.
As I trekked the remnants out for garbage day this morning, I felt the achy pang of it all coming to an end. My perfectly wrapped gifts were now shreds of boxes and paper in a heap at the end of the driveway. My family is torn apart like the paper as my parents head to Florida for four months and my in-laws follow closely behind. We will not all be together again for a long time. And I can’t help but think that as everyone gets older, we will have a merry little Christmas next year ONLY “if the fates allow.”
So this Christmas holds hints of my disenchanted Facebook posts from Christmas past. It’s so much good and so much work and then it’s gone. I feel the void that I’ve felt on Christmas night since I was a kid…. When I would climb onto the top bunk in my brother’s bed because it all just felt so lonely when it was over.
I feel that now and I feel something else too. I beg the universe and fate and God and whoever will listen to let the Christmas spirit stay still just a little bit longer. I’ll take the rushing, and spending and lack of sleep if it all just stays still. I hate letting go. I hate letting go of childhood magic and warm fuzzy family time. I hate it more than filling out address labels and fighting crowds. That memory maker that is Christmas has me all tangled up in the lights and the low and I wonder how I can just make it all last. I know everyday can’t be Christmas but I will try my damnest to put Christmas in everyday. It truly is so very worth the work. So, If you need me I’ll be handing out extra hugs, spreading cheer and hanging on to idealistic nostalgia for dear life.
First off, I’d like to say how good it was to see you again. It’s been awhile. I’ve pretty much spent the last five years being pregnant or taking care of infants and I think we both get that you being around all that is a terrible idea. Anyway, I love how we left off right where we started; how we didn’t miss a beat. It was just like old times. Thanks for those times by the way. Thank you for all the years of upping my confidence, lowering my inhibitions, improving my dance moves and making certain people more tolerable.You really helped me out in my younger years. I owe a lot of fun to you.
All that being said, I think we should probably stop seeing each other. It’s not you, it’s me. You are still you…The life of the party, the spiller of truths, the aphrodisiac of the night life. Me, however, I have morphed. I think I mentioned, I’m a mom now? and I’m not a new mom who is still under the disillusionment that her life will remain the same. I am a mom of 3….a 42 year old mom of 3. A 42 year old mom of 3 who are all under the age of 5. Yup. Would we have ever believed this back in the good ol’ days? Our lives run parallel these days. You on the fast track to fun with all of your flash and fabulousness while I am having a different kind of fun. I’m changing diapers, kissing boo-boos, and reading bedtime stories.I bet you can see how our lives do not intersect. The path that I’m on bears great responsibility and also comes with something called “mom guilt.” So, along with the headache that accompanied your evening companionship , I was adorned with shame, regret and embarrassment. For what? I am not sure. It’s not that we were dancing on tables or bringing home boys??? Nonetheless , because I have babies, you made me feel sad and sorry. It just doesn’t feel right to hang with you in excess anymore.
Now listen, if sometime I happen to be kid-less, on an all inclusive vacation, in Jamaica or Cancun, well, then,we can have a torrid affair. And maybe, just maybe ,when the kids are grown and have left the nest we can reconnect. Perhaps my husband and I will invite you to our home, out to dinner, to the movies??! But I’ll call you, don’t call me…because you belong to the free and I belong to my family.
Sincerely and without regrets,
When I first met you, I was scared of you. I’m ashamed and pained by my admission but it is true. I didn’t know what having you would entail and selfishly, how it would affect my life…..but I fought for you anyway. Not because I’m some sort of extraordinary super mom, but because I’m your mom. Period. That’s it. I couldn’t bear for others to cause you pain, I cringed to think some may not understand you,or that someone could dare to not want the very best for you. You were so helpless and little. Plus, you were mine… so, I started writing and advocating and taking giant leaps out of my comfort zone to protect you. It was fierce and It was instinct. Those days are long gone now…..
Now I fight for you because I am absolutely mad, crazy, and wild about you! I wouldn’t take that extra chromosome from you if you were holding it in your open hand. I love you so damn much it hurts. It’s weird to think that I would never take Down syndrome from you, but I couldn’t. It is part of what makes you so delicious. You are a rare coin, a winning lottery ticket, a coveted piece of sea glass.Your face filling smile and the way you work so hard are obsessions of mine….as is your perfect ratio of naughty to nice. Our family smiles so many more smiles because you are in it. We literally swoon daily. A friend in the Down syndrome world told me hearing his son say a new word is “Christmas Morning” Yes. You are Christmas morning my darling boy. Days with you are so much sweeter. You’re doing life so eloquently perfect.
You’re quiet coo of “yeeeaahhh” every single morning that wakes me with a smile. The way you grin ear to ear when I come into your room and urge for me to get you. Your quick but quality hugs complete with obligatory back pats before you run off to do all the things waiting to be done. The way you despise any type of clothing change but will oblige as long as you are serenaded. How you love music, dance and song like your mama. As Timberlake suggests, you “can’t stop the feeling.” Your adorable peg leg circular dance moves complete with arm rolls and head bops. The way you throw the most perfect dramatic tantrum that attempts to invoke anger but in contrast enamors me. How far your speech has come in just the few short months since your ear surgery. We hang on every” eee–iii—eee-iii–ooo,” every “all done” and all of hundreds of times you attempt to sing “head shoulders knees and toes.” How you start to say mama but dissolve into giggles. How you push Calvin out of the way when you feel you’re lacking in attention and how the two of you play chase together like true brothers do. The way you unsuccessfully attempt to be gentle as you put a blanket on the baby and the way you sweetly kiss him being careful not to get too close. The way you don’t ever ever stop and how you keep us forever young and engaged. We cannot be complacent with you . We love how it’s not allowed.
We have always believed in you and at the very same time we thought we had to prepare ourselves. For what I’m not sure? You do nothing but exude joy to every single person you meet.
So now I fight for you because a life without you in it seems unfathomable. It is all so very worth it… and it is not even despite the hard work but because of it. I honestly believe that the rest of the world is missing out and that we are winning at a better life because we have you in it….So, on your second birthday I still protect you with a ferocity I have never known . Only now it is not just because I’m your mom but because your worth exceeds my wildest dreams. I am so extraordinarily proud of what your life has done to this world and I love you with every piece of my soul. Happy Birthday Baby.
I know you aren’t blood. We didn’t grow up with the same mom and dad. We didn’t share clothes or childhood secrets…but we do share my brother and for that I am forever thankful.
When the two of you started dating, I didn’t know I needed another friend, but I made a best one. Thank you for letting me be your much older, third wheel and for keeping me in a constant fit of giggles. As our number of road-trips and repertoire of inside jokes grew, so did our love for each other. I admired you deeply. It was almost like you were the older one, as I tried to follow in your constant, considerate footsteps. You, who never misses a birthday or a beat. You perfectly planned my bachelorette party. You tenderly delivered your maid of honor speech and you never wavered in your commitment to our friendship. It isn’t just me by the way, I notice how you greet everyone you know with heart. You, my younger, darling sister-in-law, somehow have managed to weave maturity into simultaneous silliness. I have always been so enamored by your grace and I’ve never taken for granted our fun. And just like that, one crazy night in Massachusetts, with a waiter who was Susan Sarandon’s brother, we nicknamed ourselves Thelma and Louise.
As we grew, good times morphed. I went from third wheel, to getting married and eventually we had children. Our wild nights shape shifted to family events and our laughter always remained.
…until it didn’t. The laughter stopped. I answered your phone call just hours after Judah was born. You being you, stole a second away from your demanding job to see how I was doing. ….and I told you “we think he has Down syndrome.” From that moment on, you did everything right. Thank you for that.
Thank you for not holding it all together when I said “we think he has Down syndrome.” Thank you for just the right amount of tears. Thank you for never saying “I’m sorry.” Thank you for acceptance without one million questions. Thank you for not saying “it will all be fine” because you knew me and you knew I wasn’t. Thank you for sharing those difficult moments with me, quietly, elegantly, and in solidarity with me. Your expert amount of sadness saved me you know? If you, my hero, could share in it, then perhaps my sorrow was justified. I was allowed to be it and you held no judgement.
As we rolled home from the hospital, you continued to save me on a daily basis. Thank you for all the check-ins. Thank you for calling Judah beautiful and for capturing the beauty you helped me see with your phone. Thank you for taking off work to help me wrap Christmas presents when the spirit would have otherwise escaped me. Thank you for blow drying my hair for me when the pain was a thousand jellyfish stings. Thank you for the satchel full of little hair ties which actually led me to write this post. The other day I saw this brilliant little pouch tucked deeply in the back of my bathroom drawer. It was filled with my nieces little pony holders and when I opened it, I opened the floodgates. Emotions and memories became as fresh as cut daisies. Keeping my unkempt hair out of my eyes was such a small gesture but it kept me all together just the same. You were full of small gestures that kept me all together then: The way you raced to the rescue when Judah was sick and took Calvin as if he was your own son. The way you took him to urgent care because he didn’t seem right to you and how you gave him his nebulizer treatments when he was diagnosed with pneumonia. The way you put the mask on his beloved stuffed Rudolph to ease his apprehension and even the way you took initiative and cut his hair when it was getting in his goopy eyes. Then the way you took him to get his hair professionally fixed after you gave him the “Julie Andrews.” The way you came to see Judah in the hospital and again shed the appropriate amount of tears. The ones I needed to see. The ones that told me this is hard and that I was allowed to have a moment. The ones that accompanied your hug as you uttered “I can’t imagine.” Thank you for being my shoulder even when you couldn’t imagine Down syndrome and RSV and pain that was swirling around me.
Thank you for being there with me when I returned from the hospital to find out my dog was dying; A dog that you came to meet the second I brought him home 8 years earlier. Thank you for going right along with the crazy as I spent hundreds of dollars on herbs and supplements an thank you for helping me concoct the disgusting, smelling serum I thought just might just save my puppy.
Thank you for rescuing me over and over again. I don’t know that I ever really let you know just how much it mattered. And now two years later we are back. We are all laughs and jokes and girlie giggles again…but we are so much more. I will never forget what you did for me. We are in it for the long haul. We are here for inside jokes and we are here in times of anguish. We are friends, we are family, and we are sisters. I love you!!!
I’ve been doing a lot of comparing lately….not in destructive sort of way but in a way I imagine moms with three little ones do. Which birth was easiest, who was the fussiest, which little darling had the longest toes.
Reality sliced a nerve as I realized that today Augie is 19 days old. The same age that Judah was when we were admitted to the hospital for 13 debilitating days. December 18th, 2014 is a day so ingrained and a part of me that I can smell the same crisp air as I rushed Judah to the doctor… leaving my helm at red lights to climb in back and make sure he was still breathing. I can touch the trauma, I still shiver at the uncertainty and feel the crippling guilt of how Down syndrome still enormously overshadowed his illness.
Augie is 2 pounds bigger than Judah was when he got sick but he seems smaller and newer somehow. We had been through so much with Judah by this time. Each day was a year as we continued to grip our new normal. We were told by his pediatrician “he had that thing we thought he had” Four ladies had just been in my house evaluating his every coo and move. There were some close to us who were unsure how to handle the diagnosis. Some overcompensating , some wanting to be the ones to tell the world, some acting like nothing was going on; most at a loss for how to help. We had a revolving door of visitors by this time; people trying to keep me grounded. Christmas was so close you could smell the pine and sugar cookies. And through it all we were still attempting not to disrupt the world of our little 2 year old. All of this swirled around the short days of falling in love with Judah and so today the comparison shakes me a little.
I think I will always cradle the post-traumatic-stress that surroundsJudah at 19 days old. I will always hold tight to the hospital and breathing tubes and RSV and dreams of Christmas shattered. I almost want to keep them close. I think it’s important. Adversity breeds strength and it breeds appreciation.
As I sit here cradling my 19 day old, I wonder how the hell I was strong enough to copilot another 19day old baby in an ambulance and watch him fight for his life. I wonder and I cry about it. Perhaps it is unhealthy to relive Judah’s past and compare what I have with Augie to what I went through back then?? Or perhaps, our pain should remain in some diluted form to serve as a reminder of how we survived it, how we handled ourselves with grace and how human beings are incredibly capable of moving past what we thought might destroy us.