Soon

We are back to our old routines. The kids are in school. G is back to his usual work schedule and I have returned to reciting my old, well-worn script. Except that I keep stumbling over my lines.  I want to sort the bundles of litter that have sprouted throughout the apartment in the past few weeks: get-well cards, valentines, toys and trash.  And I really want to begin work on my dear list of projects: the space to clear, the planter boxes to build, the rooms to clean and paint to apply.  None of it is terribly important and yet there is this fresh sense of urgency, this desire to exert control, to express just how much the well-being of this little unit means to me. But right now I’m struggling just to satisfy the prerequisites.

There is much to be optimistic about. Daylight is stretching noticeably further, my family is coming to visit in just a few weeks, the kids are in good spirits and there is a job, or at least the possibility of a job, that could turn out to be really good, great even.

But when the sound of a simple cough in the middle of the night sends my heart sprinting, I’m forced to acknowledge that I have yet to metabolize the full impact of g’s illness.  Living well requires that we create a safe distance between ourselves and a true awareness of our vulnerability.  I know that I’ll find my way back there,  just as I have many times before.

Soon, I hope.

 

Dear February, Thank you for being short.

Every year I celebrate the first day of February for the simple reason that it’s arrival means that we are that much closer to it’s eventual demise. I know it’s infantile to harbor such animosity against a perfectly irreproachable string of days but I can’t stop myself from wishing it away even in the good years when the promise of springtime draws me forward.  In the bad years there is just too much darkness and damp, illness and undoing.

This is a bad year.

g is home from the hospital and doing remarkably well. I can feel myself exhale as the color creeps slowly back into his cheeks and the angular contours of his body begin to soften.  And as I’ve come around to the sweet realization that he will be absolutely fine, the panic and strain that I had somehow managed to confine went off and jumped the fence, freed to finally express the full force of their destruction.

We are tired and weary. But I am earnestly comforted by the fact that I know of a remedy for it all. It is one that has proven itself many times in the past.  It’s name? March.

The hard part of being a parent

I can still remember nearly every detail about the room where I spent my first night in the hospital when we discovered that g’s twin had died. The tension of my back muscles as they struggled to hold the weight of my big belly. The sterile smell of well-scrubbed floors and hand sanitizer. The multi-color glow of all those machines in the darkness.  I spent hours fixating on the baby monitor that measured g’s heart rate, using every last bit of my energy to will it to keep going. And so last night as I watched my beautiful 5 year old sleep in his blue hospital gown, my eyes once again fixating on the numbers on that screen, I could hardly deny that it all felt terrifyingly familiar.  This time I found that I could almost celebrate the moments when he woke, screaming in pain, using his very five-year-old words to relate to it all.  The bad guys are hurting me.

I took him in too late.  He had been complaining about stomach pain for several days and I stupidly assumed that he had fallen victim to the stomach virus that has been circulating.  When I finally understood, appendix, it was late in the game and he had already sustained a rupture.  They operated pretty quickly and the doctors assured me that he was going to be all right. But he’s struggling and I’m scared.

When g was a few months old, I remember my younger brother teasing me about the difficulties of parenting.  Oh man, you’ve got to change all those diapers and you never sleep.  I laughed. If only.  It’s only when you actually become a parent that you understand what the true hard part is. And some of us, the particularly unlucky, are given an even deeper insight.  But honestly, I didn’t need a reminder.

Minimalism – slowmamma style. Part 1

A poor person isn’t he who has little, but he who needs a lot.

I call myself a minimalist.  It is a term, I realize, that can mean many different things.  A hasty internet search suggests that it is a style preference – something about clean lines and well-placed objects.  While I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I’ve learned a lot about what minimalism means to me and over the years I’ve come to see it’s value in my life, even if the vast majority of my own lines happen to be decidedly messy.

I suspect that at least some of my minimalist tendencies are a familial legacy.  Growing up without a lot of resources, I was able to escape some of the rampant consumerism that has dictated so much of American life in the past few decades.  I had little choice but to appreciate my Christmas gift (almost always singular) and the rare and exciting occasions when a piece of clothing was purchased just for me (I had an older brother and cousins who provided the vast majority of my wardrobe). We celebrated birthdays with a simple family dinner and a cake, which was, to me, exciting enough. It’s only very recently that I am beginning to understand that, thanks in large part to the cultural tendencies of my modest immigrant family,  I may be among the fortunate few who choose minimalism through a gradual journey rather than a dramatic break.

But, economic background aside, I don’t see minimalism as being about things.  Not really.  To me, minimalism is about reducing the TIME that I spend on undertakings that are not important to me.  Sadly, it is true that so much of our time is spent on things.  We spend time to make money to afford things: a house, a car, clothes, etc.  And then we spend more time and more money to maintain those things.

And yet, I don’t think that the most important part of minimalism is the challenge of finding a way to live with less.  To me, the key is to discover the “things” that you want to keep in your life.  It is about finding out what you want to spend your time and resources on. Working to make room for those things becomes a necessary byproduct of their discovery.  So minimalism, to me, is all about identifying what really matters to you and then making as much space as you can for whatever that may be.  It’s about maximizing.

My life, quite honestly, is not all that streamlined. I have far more crap than I need.  And there are many things that interfere with my ability to pursue my priorities. It is, and always will be, a work in progress. But I am convinced that the journey is worthwhile.  And I think it could benefit from a little re-branding.  I think I’m going to call it “maximalism”, slowmamma style.