I think one of the strongest guiding principles in my life is to do The Right Thing. The difficulty, then, usually comes not so much in doing it, though that may present challenges, but in figuring out what the right thing for me is at that time. Sometimes, external influence helps to cloud what I internally truly believe is the right thing, sometimes, it’s internal self-deception or fear. I don’t count lack of knowledge, because knowledge can change what the right thing is… you have to do the right thing with the knowledge you currently have… to seek more as possible, yes, but you can only work with what you can know or figure out.
These last couple of months then, have been a period of a lot of change and upheaval, in putting aside my fears and anxieties and expectations and digging down another layer into what I truly thought was the right thing to do in my life. I’m sure there are deeper layers to be uncovered, but you have to start somewhere, or it’s just a never-ending confusion of how, when, and where to begin digging.
I ended up taking a break from staying up-to-date on a lot of online stuff… Facebook, both personal and public, my blogs, some circles of online contacts who help me stay sane (perhaps that wasn’t a good one to cut :D), different groups I’m part of, areas of research, most writing, online shopping and whatever TV shows I like to keep up on. On reflection I can see here that I cut out (thankfully, only temporarily!) some things that come most easily to me and are part of how I recharge and relax, so perhaps I should have thought that through a bit more! Being online is easy and natural to me and I find a community here that I can connect with better than the ones I know in person much of the time. Unfortunately, I had to put all that on the back burner until recently because I had so many other changes I had to handle, many of which involved a lot of human interaction, which is extremely draining and adds to my stress at the best of times… and in person interaction is considerably more draining than online.
There were several main areas of my life that had not been sitting right with me for some time, but it was difficult to decide which ones to tackle first and how. A crisis with my son put me into action mode, because if there is anything that will spur a mother into action it is the well-being of her child. But this time, I was mindful, and tried to take things without panic… and remind myself of the fact that I have to do what is best for my son AND for me, because I’m basically what he’s got and I have to last and be functional, physically and mentally :). After due consideration, stress, and anxiety conquering, I in very short order ended up taking my son out of childcare altogether, taking the plunge into working from home full time (instead of part home/part office), and moving 100 miles away… back to the country.
I had been trying to make small steps in this direction… these are areas of my life that I’ve railed against from the beginning, internally, but actually taking those steps was incredibly scary. I was, for starters, petrified that I would have to find a new job, which since I wanted to work from home might not afford the same security and predictability my current job had. Furthermore, my main support areas continued to comfort me that I was really lucky to be able to do what I already did as a parent, in work, etc and I was doing a great job at it, and surely nobody would expect better. I’m sure they meant well. But what I needed was not encouragement in continuing to suppress my true feelings to keep doing what screamed, in my mind “WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!” while everybody congratulated me and said they would never be able to do what I did. Instead, I needed somebody to help me plan my path and encourage me to do what I felt needed to be done, and tell me that I probably wouldn’t crash and burn, and that if I did crash and burn, I would find a way out anyway just as I always had done. I was aware that I was managing… sort of. On the outside. But inside it felt like I wasn’t doing the right thing. I was just doing what sounded like the right thing to others and was less scary than what really felt like the right thing, because I had somehow found a way to manage it and had proved I was capable of it.
In fact, proving I was capable of it was possibly why I’d let this lifestyle go on so long to begin with. Proving, at first I think, to myself. I remembered thinking, when I got divorced, that although my internal self screamed at me to get as far away as possible from the city in which HE lived and continued to threaten me, I was stronger than that. It was fear talking, the paralyzing kind of fear, rather than the doing-what-was-right voice. I had a job. I had, in time, a new apartment. I was not going to run away. They say you shouldn’t turn your back on a mountain lion. Running only encourages a predator to chase you and hunt you. Running turns you into prey. I wasn’t going to run out of fear. Of course, in addition to the suppression of said fear, the practicalities of having a baby and raising it, rebuilding savings, and holding down a job also contributed to my need for hanging on to the parts of my life that, unlike my marriage, hadn’t been smashed to bits.
But a few years down the road… the threat was no longer there, he was gone, my ties to other people in the city had evaporated one by one as they moved, or died, or drifted away, or exploded somewhat more impressively (I can picture one such relationship as a balloon, and my “quirks” as sharp pins :P). Now, the fear is no longer of staying afloat. It’s of getting off the life raft I had used to stay afloat, even if getting off the raft means a better life, one that feels more right. The things that had been sufficient, or even helpful, when I was struggling, such as the job, or daycare, or living in the city, now began to present their problematic sides again, problems I’d been suppressing because I feared having to throw them all out again at once and begin from scratch. It seemed they were all interdependent on each other. Once you’ve found the life raft and caught your breath, unless there’s a nice big ship docked right there to step onto, it’s fairly hard to convince yourself to get off again to swim for land. Even if you have identified the land.
For me, I had sighted land, just as you have sighted my propensity for ridiculously drawn-out analogies. I just had to figure out how to get from the raft to the land without sinking again. And hope and pray that it was a good land to be trying for and that I shouldn’t just wait some more and hold out for the next island.
So, somehow, and I’m still not sure exactly how everything managed to get in a row, I swapped everything out for “the more right path” for me amid warnings of doom which probably sounded like well-meant concern to other people’s ears. It was probably the hardest move I’ve ever done with all the things that were involved, but tackling the fear that prevented me from taking the first step was the hardest part of all. After that… I was rolling. Head over heels, but forward. Monitoring my health and energy levels along the way, I was sure I was going to come down with a massive sickness because I kept stretching myself too thin, and this always happens went I stretch myself too thin… my already poor immunity takes a bellyflop. Also, having already pulled out of daycare due to the aforementioned crisis, I was managing an especially clingy son, who was not enthusiastic about the scary unknown of moving. The last time I moved, which was across a yard, he was 6 months old. At that age, a) children stay where you put them and b) they take naps. Yes there are the crying and sleeplessness sessions but in other ways they’re surprisingly convenient to tote around. So, unlike every other move I’ve done in the past (too many), I wasn’t able to devote myself exhaustingly to getting everything unpacked and organized immediately. We had to do things like eat at semi-regular mealtimes, and sleep, read stories, and explore. Hmm.. maybe this is why I didn’t get sick from pushing myself too hard :P. So thanks to my son for keeping me balanced and acting more like a “normal” person than my natural inclinations. A slower approach to getting settled, however, combined with a number of unforeseen complications with the new house, meant that it took a lot longer for me to start to feel relaxed again. I found myself thinking, wasn’t this supposed to be helping me achieve more peacefulness and relaxation? Wasn’t this supposed to help my son, not get us more frustrated with each other? Why am I so overwhelmed?
The answer is, it was, and it did. And I was overwhelmed because, I get easily overwhelmed, especially when I have to deal with a lot of people, even helpful relatives and neighbors, and when I don’t have everything set up how I like it and there are problems here there and everywhere. But it was the kind of overwhelmed that, once I finish checking off another list of “things to do for the new house,” I slowly chip away at. The overwhelmed of having too much to do at once. Not the overwhelmed feeling of I’m slowly suffocating in my apartment, and I can’t relax anywhere except sometimes at my parent’s house, and my health is getting worse so I can’t half even DO my job anyway, and I’m shirking my responsibilities as a mother, and I feel like I should be out DOING things and I’m so tired of dealing with people at the end of the day, I have no reaction at all to the grocery checkout people my son talks to with great enthusiasm.
Because the peace is creeping in, bit by bit. I knew it was there waiting for me to come out of the city, out of this race all day long living this life that looks normal to other people but doesn’t fit me… it’s like the uncomfortable clothing with the scratchy tags that people keep manufacturing for some reason. This isn’t perfect, and it’s not my home forever, but it’s closer to free, and closer to myself. I feel it when I look up at night and see the pale splash of the milky way across the sky, every glittering star where I left it half a lifetime ago, and seemingly twice as bright. When my son asks if he can go outside while I’m still putting my shoes on, and I don’t immediately panic that he’s going to be hit by a car or kidnapped in the next 5 seconds without my constant vigilance. When the flocks of thousands of tiny birds fly up out of the valley in the pink and gold sunset glow, filling the sky. When deer cautiously pick their way through the front yard, pausing under the scarlet maple leaves to look in the sliding door at us curled up on the couch. I know they can hear “Pop Goes The World” blaring on my laptop on the other side of the glass, but it doesn’t seem to faze them. They will probably wreak havoc on my garden when I get the yard in order in the spring, but for some reason that thought doesn’t bother me right now. Instead, I leave them some mushy apples under the bare orchard trees, and they accept.
(were you expecting a different link? 😉 )