Mourning the loss of childhood innocence

I woke up this morning to the sight of my little boy sleeping peacefully. The terrible events that unfolded last Friday gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for his safety, but also the recognition that I will never be able to protect him from all the bad in life. Terrible, unspeakable things happen on rough city streets and in sleepy, picturesque towns. And there is nothing I can do to guard him from experiencing bad things in life. One day, he will face the troubling realization that life is full of uncertainty, unfairness, and loss.

For the most part, our society recognizes childhood innocence as something sacred—something to be protected lest it be disturbed too soon. We understand that childhood innocence is fleeting and the rest of life exposes us to a host of sad, scary, serious things.

Although I can’t wait to share the amazing and beautiful parts of the world with my son as he grows, I am sad that the good things of life must go hand-in-hand with the hard parts: fear, disappointment, temptation, evil. I know my job as a mom is not to shield him from these things, but to prepare him to face the tough stuff when the time comes. And somehow I already know that it will be more difficult for me to witness his pain than it is for me to experience it myself. Such is the condition of parenthood, I’m learning.

Being a parent has allowed me to experience the deepest and most profound love I could ever imagine. But it has also made me more vulnerable than I have ever been before. Truly, my own heart now exists outside of my body.

It is through this new lens of parenthood that I viewed the recent tragedy, and why it is even more earth-shattering for me to think about. I can’t imagine the kind of pain those families and that community is grappling with. My thoughts and prayers, however insignificant they may be, are sent the way of all those suffering from this trauma.

My hope is that our children whose innocence has been shattered by this and other awful events in life will also be fortunate enough to perceive the good that coexists with the bad. That they will remember the fear and the loss, but also the courage of those they loved, the strength of their community, and the sense of commonality that tragedy brings out among us.

Writing like no one is watching

Right along the lines of perfectionism and procrastination is the terrible, awful, crippling habit of avoidance. Avoidance is different than procrastination in that I try my darndest, not to delay a task, but to avoid ever doing the task I dread.

This habit most definitely stems from perfectionism—if I feel as though I have failed in some way, it is so disturbing to me that I seek to somehow never face up to whatever it was that made me feel like a failure again. Ever. Even if I have to alphabetize the bookshelf, re-wrap the lights on the Christmas tree, or write snail mail letters to avoid my email, I take avoidance seriously. And it is driving me crazy.

One of the things I am ashamed to say I am avoiding is writing a new post for this blog. Two years ago, when I started blogging, I was pretty certain no one would ever read my posts. And I was OK with that—my inner thoughts were just out there, floating. It provided some creative release without revealing anything to anyone.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always wanted to be an active blogger. I was just a little scared of what people would think of what I thought, or that I don’t have anything all that interesting to say.

Then I was freshly pressed. I realize how very fortunate that is, and I am very grateful. I was truly humbled and inspired by the response to my previous post “Having it all, or losing my mind?” The response was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, and I am so thankful for each person who took the time to read and comment.

So I should be relieved, right? Unfortunately, not quite.

I began to think about the list of ideas I had for future posts. Suddenly, they all seemed terrible. People may actually be watching and reading now. I had to raise the bar! Cue the avoidance.

I don’t want this to come off as though I have no confidence in my writing. It’s just, in typical “me” fashion; I have analyzed and avoided the situation to the point of paralysis.

However, like so many of the other challenges I’ve faced, the only way for me to feel better about the situation is to write about it. In order to un-avoid the situation is to write it out as honestly as possible—as if no one is reading.

Of course, if you are reading—thank you. I really will get better about this!

Having it all, or losing my mind?

The other day I did something I thought I would never do—I took a phone interview for a job I really wanted with a 4-month-old strapped to my chest.

Before you resign to thinking I’m crazy, let me explain. I recently quit my marketing job in hopes of truly having it all—staying home to raise my new baby while securing satisfying (not scammy) at-home employment, getting back my bikini body, and having homemade dinner on the table every night.

In hindsight, go ahead and think it. I AM crazy. In the first couple of weeks since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to take calls and speak with potential employers or clients at precisely the same moment my little bundle of joy starts to scream his head off. His crying may or may not be detected the person on the other end of the line, but for me it is slowly tearing away at my heart strings (and sanity) with each passing second and each labored wail.

“My baby needs me,” I think to myself desperately while not quite halfway engaging in the conversation. I lose track of what I’m saying, what they’re saying, and needless to say, I haven’t landed work from these fruitless and painful conversations. Luckily, he has remained asleep for enough of my work time that I’ve been able to get through a few successful calls and land a few jobs. But each call I wait with baited breath for the screaming to begin, and I can therefore never fully devote my thoughts to the matter at hand.

After all, as much as I want to be gainfully employed at the same time I stay home to raise my child, I always know in my heart that I’m a mom first. And it’s why his yells for me are so heart-wrenching—I feel just as I did when I was working a traditional 40 hours in an office—like I have to choose to put work before my son.

So that brings me to the baby carrier phone call debacle. My interview was at one, and like all my “phone call” days, I carefully planned his feeding and nap schedule to perfectly coincide with my phone call. But as anyone who has ever had a 4-month-old knows, they like to eat perfectly planned schedules for breakfast and throw them up all over your sweater.

Not me–this is a lovely model using the fabulous (and sanity-saving) Moby wrap

As the time drew nearer, I heard him begin to stir in his crib. I couldn’t bear the thought of enduring the entire (important) conversation with him progressively screaming louder and louder. I knew I would be useless. I needed a plan B.

As I frantically paced the house thinking of ways to make him happy for one full hour while I took the call, it came to me. The only time he is (usually) completely satisfied and calm is when he is tucked in his little Moby baby wrap: attached to my chest. I thought it was risky, but it just might work.
Initially, all was well. I could concentrate on the call because I knew my most precious job was taken care of. Baby was happy. Until he wasn’t.

About 25 minutes into the call, I notice the telltale signs of an impending tantrum. I panicked. What do I do if he starts to scream? What is my explanation? Here I am trying to convince this organization that I can easily balance remote work and maintain a professional demeanor, and I have an infant about to lose his mind directly into the phone.

Fortunately, the job to which I was applying involved mostly non-phone work and writing, so I thought it may be OK. And when the crying started, I dealt with it as graciously as humanly possible. He settled soon after I wrangled the binkie into his mouth and my interviewer seemed to accept my hasty apology.

I don’t know if I got the job, but at this point it’s not looking good. And that’s OK. I am continuing to learn how insanely tough and rewarding it is to be a mom, and how my strong motherly instinct continues to surprise me. As naturally ambitious as I am, I am far more passionate about being a mom than advancing my career.

Having it all may be tough, or it may be downright impossible. All I know is I am on a journey to find out.

Bear with me–I’m a recovering perfectionist

I have many big plans. I am going to read all the classics. I am going to write a blog post every day. I am going to start a vegetable garden, and teach my son sign language, and start my own business as a freelance copywriter.

But for all my planning, I have don’t have much going on. I am, it seems, overwhelmed by possibility and unable to see what I should do first. Combine that with past starts-and-stops that have ended in failure, and I have a recipe for stagnation.

One of the most paralyzing symptoms of perfectionism (and my tendency for over-analysis) is that thinking about things is great, but actually starting things is nearly impossible. For a recovering perfectionist, the entire process of a project must be perfect—I must be an expert and get everything right along the way. I struggle with the idea of learning as I go.

I have a pretty vivid memory of the burgeoning of my perfectionist tendencies when I was five years old and about to start first grade. I remember telling my mother that I was scared to go to school. I couldn’t go to school. In school, the children knew how to read and write and add numbers, and I didn’t know how to do any of that. “You don’t go to school already knowing those things,” she insisted, “you go to school to learn.”

I guess it is natural to be scared of what we don’t know. We derive confidence from knowing what to do and expect, but these things absolutely must come from experience. From mistakes. From sounding like an idiot from time to time.
My whole life I have felt like I need to do everything perfectly or else not at all. Which, as I mentioned, has a chilling and paralyzing effect on me. I shun criticism and rejection more than most people. I am extraordinarily hard on myself.

What I’m getting at is this: to this point, I have deprived myself of some great experiences due to my oppressive perfectionism and fear. And I need to stop this very moment. And I may fail, go back to my ways, and get frustrated with my failure. But I have to try again. Do something. Be humble. But be Interesting.

Mommy Wars

This blog may be collecting dust, but I have made yet another promise to myself to get back on here and write about my journey (Hey, there is something to be said for continuing to make an effort after failure, right?)

That aside, I have some pretty big news: My husband and I are expecting a baby! This blog has been so neglected, that I am only writing about it now, 3 weeks from the little one’s due date.

And for all my musings about work and getting back to nature and what it is all for, there is nothing like the impending arrival of a child to turn all that philosophizing on its head. In fact, during this pregnancy, a lot of my old worries have been deemed completely self-indulgent/not important considering. Which is good. For now.

I have also discovered the mommy wars, and man (or woman) is it tough out there. There are so many opinions on the best way and the right way and the oh-no-dear-God-she-didn’t way. I would be easier to not let all the hoopla get to me if this wasn’t such a big deal.

To work or stay at home?
Natural birth or medication? Midwife or OB?
Breast or formula?
Glass or plastic?
Attachment parenting? Cry it out?
Cloth or disposable diapers?

It makes my head spin. And while I’ve manage to make my decisions on many of the looming questions. I can’t help but feel overwhelmed and sad that modern parenting has been reduced to warfare of what is “right” and “wrong,” with staunch defenders on all sides of each and every tiny issue.

I feel disapproving eyes each time I make a trip to Starbucks. “It’s decaf!” I want to scream, even though my midwife told me caffeine is fine in moderation. I feel judged each time I walk into a store without my wedding rings because my fingers are swollen beyond recognition, and yet I am annoyed at my sensitivity since we live in the 21st century, and it is no one’s damn business if I am married or not. Nothing like the precious and vulnerable life of a child to bring out the most judgmental part of society (and self-consciousness in me.)

All I know right now is I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Nevertheless, I am beyond joyful for this new journey in my life, and will approach it with open arms and and open mind.

Back…and Back to Basics

I’m back, and I didn’t stick with my old job long. It was pretty obvious that I was talking me into it each day, and it was a big fat lie to myself. There is only so much boredom one can withstand without going mad. So I took a new full time job closer to home. One that is outside my field in a lot of ways—I’m not a copywriter anymore. In fact, I don’t do much writing at all. It is definitely a shame. But that is a post for another time.

So I’m back to blogging as an outlet for my writing, and this time I want to make it work. I know people intend to start blogs all the time and leave them sit. I can’t do that this time, even if I am the only person who reads this. Writing is my release and it always has been, so I’m doing this for me.

On the topic of balance and achieving simplicity, my husband and I recently made a pretty huge life change. We sold the townhouse that was driving us (and our dogs) crazy and moved out into the country. I love, love, love it. It feels like where I need to be. We actually ended up reducing our bills by moving (no more city water, no HOA, no more 4+hour commute), and it feels like some miracle that it actually happened. We had to sell our house in one of the worst housing markets my generation has seen, and find a place my husband and I could agree on (no small feat). To my astonishment, the puzzle pieces fell together, helping me believe things really do happen in their own time.

Now, my sincere hope is to connect more with nature and learn to find the joy in the simplicity of the quiet out here. I’ve started a garden and plan to plant some vegetables and herbs once the spring comes. I plan to get back to basics, and I have started with the little things. We get our produce from farmer’s markets around here. We get more exercise naturally doing yard work and playing with our dogs, who are ecstatic to have the room to run. Their joy has been my joy.

This journey has taken quite a different turn now. I look forward to writing about my work towards a more simple and well-rounded life. I continue to challenge the idea of a work life that is forced–not driven my passion–and I continue to search for what it is I am meant to do. But I get the feeling I am getting warmer…

A blogging discovery

I am blogging here for a few distinct purposes:

  • To create an outlet for the things I am always thinking about
  • To learn more about customizing my own blog site
  • To engage in conversation with the ever-growing online community

My basic premise is my realization that balance and grace are things I am continuously seeking in all aspects of my life.  And as I try to achieve both, I plan to record my experiences and possibly gain some insight and knowledge from others.

So (hopefully) soon, I will be working on customizing this theme, developing content, and narrowing the direction for this project.

More to come soon!