the daily grind

Labor Day weekend is here, and though it is still hot in Atlanta, it somehow represents the beginning of fall.  It’s weird the things you recall years later, the things that stick. This weekend marks four years ago that I found out I was pregnant with Norah.  Four years is not all that long ago, not at all. Yet so much has changed since then. Everything.

I am here in this season with two kids and their own little personalities and quirks. Life is busy busy. Out the door each day at 7:30, all three of us dressed and breakfast eaten. Wave Jude on the bus. Drive in listening to Norah’s daily chatter. (And that girl shares A LOT!) Prep and grade and teach, pick up Norah. Head home. Get Jude. And sink into those glorious three or so hours between the end of our school day and bedtime. Bathe both kids. Bedtime stories. An hour to myself downstairs. Sleep. Repeat.  A month into the school year, and we have a rhythm. It feels good – busy but comfortable.  Weekends are a slow and easy pace when they are here, and even the smallest outings can become special. We have so much time just the three of us, and I’m grateful for the bonds it’s cementing.

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I think back to four years ago and finding out I was expecting a second child and all the questions that I examined in light of that. Will I be a good mom to two?  Can I handle all the demands of a second? Will my relationship with my first feel different?  And even stranger to me is to consider all the questions I didn’t even know to ask. I never expected to be back at work when she was only fifteen months, and at the time I found a little plus sign on a stick, I saw a stretch of years in front of me as a stay-at-home mom.  I certainly never expected that I would find the strength to raise these two as a single parent, nor did I know it would be necessary.  What blows my mind more than this is that I could have a reality in another four years that is completely different from the one I’m experiencing now. We really have no clue what the future holds, if we are doing it right anyway.

I see now, as I look back, that I was so busy making other plans for my future that I didn’t allow space for the magic to happen as it could have. So many of my growing pains this past year are a result of my counting too much on the future I was planning with someone else. Listening to what the world tells me I need – a bigger house, a nicer car, vacations, expensive things – and not allowing my inner consciousness to play around a bit and unfold what can be. When Life issued an ax to all those plans and dreams, and I was left to start over alone, it took a little while to listen to my own voice again. I’m listening now.

Our upstairs a/c broke on Wednesday when I was at work, and I didn’t find this out until I walked the kids up at 7:15 for a bath, and as I neared the last step, I felt an almost nauseating heat wave.  Obviously I knew immediately what it was and looked at the thermostat to see a reading of 84. A humid 84. Inside my house. An hour before the kids’ bedtime and after a long day that had us out until 6pm for speech therapy after school. It almost broke me.

And some people might be reading this to say shut up. It’s only air conditioning. Don’t be overdramatic and deal with it. But really, sometimes it is the little things that almost kill you. When I look back at my past few months, it is always the little things that feel heavy. The car trouble. The trips to doctor with sick kids. The broken air conditioner. Sometimes single motherhood can feel like a grand adventure, and as I said this week on Instagram, sometimes it can feel like a pile of shit.  The daily grind alone.

But I plugged in a large fan that my mom brought over for us to use, and I opened a window. The kids came in with arms full of stuffed animals and flashlights and saw this as some fun adventure, a night out of the ordinary. We all piled in the one room with a fan and a bed, and I wished for just a moment that I could see this season through the lens of my future self looking back. When I know I will see the shimmers and adventures and not always remember the pain of daily struggles. One day those rough edges will smooth in nostalgia, and I will just remember the roar of an electric fan and the window open to the rain outside and the two little bodies breathing softly next to me. I won’t remember the sweat and tears and money woes and panic. I really see clearly already that this is the best of times and the worst of times. Sometimes all in one day.

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I read or hear things everyday that work together with other ideas circulating in my head, and it gives me further assurance that there is a greater force at work here and that a new reality emerges when we have the eyes to see it. I hang on to every word, every idea.  I’ve got things scrawled on paper and hanging on my walls. Pinned online, saved anywhere I can.  The written word is a life raft to me. I ran across a Rumi quote this week that says, “You have seen your own strength. You have seen your own beauty. You have seen your golden wings. Why do you worry?”  And I have seen it – my own strength and beauty. I have seen it in these months, and I am counting on it to lead me to some place new that I can’t even imagine right now. And I don’t mean a new house or a nicer wardrobe or a world where I don’t have money panic when things break – because I have seen firsthand how little that matters. But I mean that my entire reality is changing little by little each day to create something richer and fuller, and outside circumstances are losing their power over me. That well of stillness and joy inside is growing louder and deeper everyday.

I follow a couple of yogi Instagram accounts that offer inspiration to me, and I ran across a passage last week from Pink Roses Yogi that spoke to me so much that I couldn’t let it go. “I believe that your tragedies, your losses, your sorrows, your hurt happened for you, not to you. And I bless the thing that broke you down and cracked you open because the world needs you open. I believe that life lessons are less about getting it right and more about getting it wrong. I believe that you are more on track than you feel, even if you don’t feel it – especially if you don’t feel it. For the further you get off track, the closer you actually are to abandoning the wrong path and leaping onto the right one. I believe that you are closer than you think and more qualified in your message than you could ever fathom. …  I believe that the darkness is a birthing process and that, in order to find your light, first you need to venture through the shadows of your ego. I believe that in order to be a light in the world, you first need to come home to who you truly are and then bravely show it to all those around you.”

I’m starting to bless the things that cracked me open. They’ve shown me my own strength in ways I didn’t expect. By Friday, I’d lined up an air conditioning repair service that luckily was not too expensive. We ventured to Jude’s first soccer practice of the season in the hot sun and followed that with a quick dinner out. Then on Saturday I nursed a sick kid yet again with cool washcloths and cartoons and kale smoothies. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is just put one foot in front of the other, again and again. Doing what is needed this very minute and giving little thought to the distant future.  But that is harder than you think in a world that tells us we should always be planning for something bigger and better. We should always be climbing some ladder to a more prominent place. Preferably one with new hardwood floors and granite kitchens and Tory Burch shoes and expensive purses.  Because that’s what shows that you are worth something and you don’t have cracks and bruises.

Broken air conditioning and overflowing laundry baskets and feverish kids and exhausted moments are not what we show the world, but they happen.  And sometimes I feel like I just want a break from the daily woes, but I see that this is where it happens. Where it gets real and where my strength is made.  I’m waving my hand to you today to say that I’m knee-deep in all of these challenges everyday, but I am making it. And I can see the strange beauty in this season.

I’m reading Daring Greatly right now, and in the early chapters of the book, Brene Brown assures us that “the willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time. […] It’s daring greatly. And often the result of daring greatly isn’t a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of freedom mixed with a little battle fatigue.”

I feel this everyday. Battle fatigue punctuated with little moments of joy and a quiet freedom that assures me that my path has already led me to something greater when I just do the task in front of me with love and awareness.

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