Looking forward

I am not good at balance.

If I take the long view I can divide my life into many phases, each with a different primary focus – work, play, athletics, friendship, romance – that together make-up something of a meta-balance. But I have rarely managed to successfully combine many layers at once.  And the latest phase has been blindingly monotone.

When g was born I lost the ability to locate my own boundaries, becoming completely submerged in the briny deep of parenting.  For several years my ambitions could be summed up in a single word: sleep.

I received counsel. You’ve got to take time for yourself. But knowledge and action don’t always play well together.  I had stellar examples. I knew many women who juggled like masters, at times tirelessly clawing their way toward their own desires.  But I just didn’t have it in me.  It was a failure that I accepted matter of factly, in the same way that I accept my imperfect proportions or my poor sense of direction.

And I’ve come to understand that there are cultural implications to my shortcomings.  I was born in the US but am, for better and worse, a Mediterranean whose values lean closer to interdependence than autonomy.  Growing up in a large Italian family I learned the skills of twisting and stretching when living as part of a unit. I can even embrace the good in this way of life as long as I continue to look forward – a simple glance downward sheds light on that dizzying labyrinth that is gender politics.

But exactly a year ago my perspective began to shift.  It sneaked up on me. g was about to enter Kindergarten and Mr D was beginning a toddler program 3 mornings a week.  12 childfree hours a week! All of a sudden I was performing a mental sprint toward those interred dreams. I began to fantasize about work possibilities, self-care, intellectual pursuits, hobbies.

Reality, it turns out, is a honey badger.  Mr D struggled for months to adapt to his “school” and g spent the bulk of winter in recovery. My grand ambitions were grossly downsized. But they weren’t forgotten.  Looking back I realize that my life changed dramatically.  I formulated my dream job and then took very concrete steps toward making it a reality.  I began reading again.  I expanded my gardening space.  I even started blogging again!

These final weeks of summer have been lovely.  I have been enjoying unstructured time with the boys- trips to the park and library, lots of play with friends and neighbors, bushels of tomatoes. But in just 10 days I will again have precious time for myself as g enters first grade a Mr D takes on preschool. I now know that even this intense phase of parenting comes to an end. And I am really looking forward to the next one.

Paralysis

We took a wonderful vacation this year. 2 weeks on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Sweet towns, beautiful beaches and surroundings, incredible food and lovely people.  Despite the fact that I don’t like traveling at this stage of my life, I supported this adventure because it is something that G needs desperately. It is precisely this subsistence on heat and saltwater that he turns to to define summer. And I understand his need to pass this definition on to his children.

The kids loved every minute. And I love the simple messages that can be conveyed by just existing in an environment so different from our own.  The richness of landscape, the fuzzy distinctions between rich and poor, the fluidity of culture and language.  I adored watching them take it all in stride.

But now that we are back it feels like I passed through a geomagnetic storm that wiped out all of my navigational equipment.  I can remember clearly marveling over the realization that all of my precious routines and schedules became irrelevant after just a few days away but like a toddler I’ve been scrambling to regain the comfort of their structure since the moment we returned.

I feel a bit ridiculous.  Like most of us, I have a simple awareness of the privilege of my condition on an everyday basis but leaving it behind for a few weeks disrupted my capacity for comfortable acceptance, further complicating my already difficult relationship with this home town of mine- one of the wealthiest places on the planet.

In reality I’m grateful for the renewed perspective.  I think that awareness is a good thing.  It’s the inability to do anything about it that upsets me.  I know that there are numbers of people who work tirelessly to synch the lyrics of their livelihood to the soundtrack of their values.  And there are many more who exist naturally among the contradictions and compromises that are necessary to get by.  It just so happens that right now, I can’t seem to manage either.  And I hate it.