The last several days have been quite the cocktail of difficulties, stresses, joys, sorrows, and everything in between. They contained such momentous things as discovering that we are having our second little boy, monotonous things as spending 17 hours in the car for a 4 day weekend, magical things as Christmas morning (a week early with family) through the eyes of our son, mournful things as the loss of my grandmother, maddening things as dealing with a toddler who ever-increasingly loves to throw fits, melancholy things as watching our little man have to fight off ear and bronchial infections at the same time, and mind-numbing things as self-doubt about parenting skills, family, success, and life in general. Oh, and did I mention I’m pregnant? I am so physically and emotionally drained as of late that I have been putting off writing in the hopes that circumstances would improve and I’d be more inclined to write something positive and fulfilling. But the truth of the matter is, it is not our circumstances that enable us to be positive people or obtain fulfillment. They are merely the scenery along the path we take to get there. Happiness is a choice we all must make daily, whether our circumstances aid us in the endeavor or not. I say this as much to myself as to anyone else who may be reading and need to hear it. I assure you, I have spent more time crying in the last few days than I have spent laughing and I have not even made much of an effort to the contrary. But it is this acknowledgement, this reminder, that puts my eyes back in focus, and helps me to remember that the tears are prism lenses which, when looked through, can make the world either distorted and ugly or vibrant and beautiful depending on our perspective.
Rather than feeling only the loss of my grandmother and the aching void my grandfather must feel after 60+ years together, I MUST remember the beauty of her life and the peace that is attained through her passing and the end of her pain. Rather than getting bogged down in every fit Aiden throws and sometimes behaving just as badly, I MUST remember that my son is TWO and this is normal and I am teaching him by my reactions how to handle frustration and anger. Rather than worrying incessantly about my little boy’s health, I MUST take advantage of a day at home with him that contains no prior agenda and just play away the pain. Rather than seeing the news about our new baby being a boy as a disappointment because, most likely, I will never have a daughter, I MUST remember all the glorious ways that I adore my son and how amazing it will be to experience that again. If I don’t opt for these brighter perspectives, I will wallow in self-pity and pain and fail to see the radiance of life. Tomorrow, I will wake up, I will adjust my focus through my teardrop prisms, see the wild array of colors all around me, and actively decide to be happy. Goodnight.
Yesterday was a day of surprising indulgences for a working mother of a two-year old. Personal time and relaxation are both commodities that are hard to come by at this stage of my existence. Yet miraculously, my day started with a glorious half hour of quiet solitude complete with a cup of french vanilla coffee and a cinnamon bagel. This was after I had the privilege of sleeping in till almost 8:30 since both of my boys slept till 9:00. The worrisome part of me wanted to go in and check on my little man since this occurrence is so rare, but my more rational side won out as I let him sleep and enjoyed my quiet, solitary breakfast. The level to which I savored this event is almost (but not quite) sad.
Woman in Her Bath painting by Edgar Degas
This was not even my only spoiled moment of the day. After a long and fulfilling morning working outside in the yard as a family, I got Aiden fed and in bed for his nap and then drew a hot bath with epsom salts, candles, and book and proceeded to soak away all my muscle aches, tensions, and worries and simply relax. As I laid flat on my back with only my nose and mouth above water, I began to contemplate how very lucky we are. There are so many things we take for granted. Little things like being able, at a moment’s notice, to fill an entire tub with enough hot water to completely submerge ourselves. As little as 60 years ago this would have been considered decadent. The only way you could have such a bath was if you heated all the water on the stove first (after chopping and bringing in enough wood to do so) and probably shared it with other siblings or family members, hoping you were the first in line. My mother remembers living in a house with no indoor bathroom! Even today, in other places in the world, such extravagance would never even be considered. Yet I simply turn a knob and don’t even think twice about soaking my cares away. We are indeed blessed. How many other simple, everyday activities do we take for granted. How many conveniences that we see as basic necessities were never even available to our parents or grandparents? How many of them will still be available to us tomorrow? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that today I am grateful.
A few minutes ago, as I was reading to Aiden before bed, I fell asleep between one page and the next. There was a long pause and Aiden asked, “Mama, why’d you stop?” My only response, “Oh, sorry, where was I?” That is the state of exhaustion in which I find myself tonight while trying to write something insightful. I was discussing with a friend recently that every decision we make as adults seems to involve some amount of sacrifice. The question we face when making these decisions is, does the gain outweigh the loss? While in the early months of pregnancy, I find that the sacrifice for maintaining my personal goals and sanity seems to be utter exhaustion. Obviously, I believe the benefits of a stimulating conversation with a greatly missed friend till the wee hours of the morn outweigh the crushing fatigue that faces me the next day. Clearly, I think it is more important for me to keep writing consistently even when my bed is calling my name like a siren, than to wait for a refreshed and inspired moment to enlighten my readers with witty repartee. And it is certainly beneficial for me to continue reading for my book club even when sleep is crowding my vision.
But, while considering these things, I realized that this is not a unique problem of early pregnancy. My current battle may be with exhaustion, but there is always something that is encroaching on our time, energy, and commitment. We always have to fight for personal fulfillment and growth even when the activities that cultivate them sometimes feel like chores. Because without them, we stagnate. We sleep. We waste. If we are not striving to be better, even while sacrificing a certain amount of ease and comfort, then we become millstones around the necks of those we care about who are trying to grow. So keep fighting for the things that make you a better person, even when you would much rather be doing something else, because in the long run, you will find yourself changed, with a greater capacity for understanding, challenge, and new growth.