Posted in adventure, faith, family, fun, happiness, kids, Learning, Life, living, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, women

Playing Outside Again

I just got back from my morning walk with Lucy- we left a little later today, and we went a little further, since Devon is here (albeit, locked in the spare room where he has been since last Tuesday when he arrived- he caught a bug somewhere between California and Maine, and though he was only sick for 24 hours, I am not willing to take any chances) and I don’t have to worry about leaving Cam alone.

It occurred to me while I was walking along, up and down streets I haven’t been on before, that my best moments since I have been here have happened almost exclusively outside. Or at least, outside of my apartment. Because some awesome times have been had just out driving around as well.

Here in Maine, at least the part I am in, everything is beautiful. I’m not just saying that, either- it is really, really pretty here. But sometimes, you come around a bend and see something utterly breathtaking, so gorgeous it’s almost unreal. The urge to slam on the brakes and jump out to take a photo is pretty overwhelming at times. I’ve been trying to resist the urge to capture everything, and simply enjoy it, tuck it away as a memory.

The other thing I keep realizing is the way I feel when I am out on my several-times-daily walks, whether alone or with Camryn. It’s the closest I’ve felt to being a child in…a really long time. Do you remember that feeling? When you were a kid on a Saturday morning, and you took off on your bike and you just felt this expansive sense of freedom, like you could go forever and stop wherever and who knows what you might see? When you would turn down alleys and zig zag back and forth through neighborhoods you could never see so well from the window of a car? That feeling.

Everything is new here. And because the weather changes all the time, it is new in other ways as well. Since I have been here, I have kicked through many piles of autumn leaves. I have jumped and kicked through puddle after puddle in my Maine- appropriate lace up boots. I have fallen over in snow banks, made butt prints and snow angels, thrown snow balls and simply delighted in the crunch-crunch-crunch sound of my boots in the snow. I have slid through slush on a golf course and grown braver and braver about slipping down paths and darting through yards to see what is on the other side. I have yet to pass an iced over puddle that I didn’t give in and crack, just to see if I could. I can’t help tricking my dog onto ice patches, either, just to watch her slide. I have swung on swings in several parks, and slid down slides, laughing with Cam as we flew through the air. The birds and plants and trees and buildings are lovely, the sunsets and sunrises unmatched. But it’s the walking and playing and taking it all in that really does it for me.

I thought that I had forgotten how to play- I despaired of this fact, actually, many times. Because I have a child, and it’s important to me that I engage with her this way. The truth is, I just needed a little bit of wonder. I needed a change of scenery. I needed puddles and piles of leaves and waking up to streets that had disappeared under a foot of snow. I needed swing sets and ancient grave yards and candy stores that are a hundred years old. I didn’t know that was what I needed, but I found a way to give it to myself anyway.

Maine is not the solution I thought it would be. It has not changed me into some easier, more calm-minded person. That just isn’t how things work, I don’t think. But the gifts of this adventure are not few, and though they are different than what I thought I wanted, they are somehow…perhaps exactly the ones I most needed.

Posted in adventure, anxiety, Blogging, Dreams, faith, family, Goals, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random

The Art of Not Knowing

The stupid tide, in again
Sunset from my deck

I know that it’s not unusual for me to go long stretches of time without writing, but it is unusual for me to want to write and not be able to figure out how. Obviously, I still know how to write, but getting the right words to come out can be tricky sometimes. I wanted to paint this beautiful picture of my new life in Maine, but what kept coming out was…the truth. That I was sad, and homesick, lonely and unsettled. That I missed my house and my neighborhood. That I hated not knowing where things are in the grocery store, and for that matter, not knowing where the grocery store was.

Kennebunkport

The first two weeks was really, really hard. I think it was made harder by the fact that I truly did not expect to feel any of the things I was feeling. I had this idea that I would get here and somehow immediately slip into this perfect, magical, Hallmark Movie life.

Hallmark Movie set

It’s almost like I don’t even know myself, isn’t it? I guess it’s nice to know I still have the ability to surprise myself.

If the first two weeks were hard, the third week was…just awful. I was sure I’d made the biggest mistake in my life, I was mad at myself and mad, quite frankly, at the entire state of Maine (as if any of this was the state’s fault- they didn’t ask me to move here in the middle of a goddamn pandemic). I was mad at this weird condo with its twenty seven sets of dishes but only one decent frying pan. I was mad at the crooked floors and the bathtub (as mentioned in my last post), the screen door and the mailbox. I was mad about the lack of quick routes to places, and mad that the sun went out three minutes after sunset, tricking my body into thinking it was midnight before I’d even had dinner. But…the moment I looked out the window and thought “The stupid tide is in again, I see.” I realized how ridiculous I was being. I actually laughed out loud.

Did I…did I really just look out my window, at the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, that I can actually see without doing more than looking left, and roll my eyes because the “stupid tide” had come in again? Okay, I thought, I need to get a grip.

I wanted something different. I was feeling stifled and trapped in my life in California, and I longed for- I BEGGED for- the chance to shake things up. I got everything I asked for, more, even, than I dared ask for…and here I was, sulking because I received all of my dreams tied up in the neatest little package. What an absolute jackass I was being.

Here’s the thing- I wasn’t really mad. Mad is just the mask I wear when I am other things, especially when I am afraid. Because being afraid is an awfully vulnerable feeling, and I am not comfortable there. But being mad is big and loud and safe, it charges through the house and slams doors. Fear just…curls up on the floor and cries, or stands in the bathroom for way too long, unsure what to do once you open the door.

So, I did the things I always do, which are- I caught onto myself, first of all. I acknowledged that the way I was behaving wasn’t only shitty, but it was a big fat lie. I let myself meltdown utterly for a couple of days. Then I got to work. I asked myself “How can you work this to your advantage?” and “What do you want to get out of this experience?” and most importantly, “What are you going to do next?”

I have come to some decisions. I figure I can best work this to my advantage by doing exactly what I said I would do from the get go- saving, saving, saving. Squirreling away every dollar I can to go towards the house I am going to buy. And what do I want out of this experience? Well, I want the joy of adventure, of course. I want to explore and play, walk and see all the sights that I can. I want to immerse myself in New England, as much as I can in the midst of this never-ending stupid pandemic.

And finally, what do I want to do next? If you have followed me for any length of time, or if you know me in real life, then you will know that I ALWAYS have a “next thing”. And I suppose I kind of do, because I know I want to buy a house, but…that’s pretty vague. The thing is, I don’t really have a next thing right now. I don’t know what I want to do next. I don’t know if I will choose to stay here, or if I will go back to California. And if I do go back, I don’t know where I’ll land. While I am here, I don’t know if I’ll stay in this funny little condo with the world class views, or if I’ll find something else. I am utterly up in the air. I have no clue what I am doing, and my brain keeps trying to puzzle it out, rather like a phone searching for a Wi-Fi connection.

I just don’t know. I can’t know. There’s no point trying to plan when I don’t have all the facts in. I need to be happy. I need to feel connected. I need to feel that I am home, that I belong, that this can work. And that is something that takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen in four weeks, not for most people. So when my brain starts hassling me, or I start scrolling through listings of rentals out of sheer habit, I force myself to knock it off, to sit back and do something else. Stare out the window. Walk the dog. Read a book. I am allowed to stop worrying, to stop pushing myself to decide, to stop needing answers that don’t exist.

I am not skilled at all in the art of not knowing. But I am smart. I can learn anything with a little effort.

I’ll muddle through, somehow
Posted in family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Unconditional

unconditional

It is 4:42 a.m. and my eyes pop open. I bring my wrist to my face and squint up at the green numbers on my Fitbit, then slide awkwardly towards the foot of my bed to exit, grabbing my phone from the charger as I go. There’s a child sleeping beside me that had not been there when I went to sleep, and I don’t want to risk waking her. This is as much for my sake as her own- maybe more for my sake, honestly. These little hours of the morning are the only ones that are truly mine, and I am not willing to share them with anyone.

Camryn, though, is not the child that sleeps lightly. Aisley was the one I had to tiptoe around to keep from waking, the one who would always wake simply because the warmth of my body was missing beside her. From the moment she was born, she lived her life perched in the crook of my arm, balanced on the side of my hip. She slept pressed against my side, curled herself into my lap as we watched TV. Camryn was different- she wanted to sleep near me, but not too near. She wanted down, she wanted to explore, she wanted to do it herself. I told myself it was a good thing, her independence. It meant she felt safe, that I was doing something right. The truth is, I missed all the cuddling, and it probably had nothing to do with me. Children, in many ways, are born with personalities intact.

Last night was a rough night. Though there is nothing I love more than my daughters, and having them both home, under the same roof, brings a peace to my heart like nothing else, my girls are…polar opposites. Like two ends of a battery, they go together, but they are not the same. Positive and Negative. Cam is happy and hyper, kind and silly. At the far end of those things, she is obnoxious, relentless, impulsive and incapable of pumping the brakes. Aisley is…quiet, calm, practical and sensitive to her environment. The darker side of her is moody, agitated, intolerant and…unhappy in a way that you can feel, even when she is silent.

Her sister gets on her nerves. I can feel the tension building, and it affects me, too. Cam is bouncing off the walls. Aisley is stewing. I am in the middle, trying to warn them both “She’s only eight, be patient.” and “Camryn, you need to settle down.” “Settle down.” “Camryn, THAT IS ENOUGH!” Poor Cam, thinking she can crack just one more joke, and everyone will laugh and be happy, not realizing that every time she opens her mouth, she’s pushing both her sister and I closer to the edge. It ended with me losing my cool, Aisley jumping in, and Camryn in tears, feeling (rightly) that she’d been ganged up on. My poor little peanut.

I apologized, but was not granted permission to hug for several hours. I explained to Aisley that, though it isn’t her intention to do it, her moods are contagious for me. They always have been. I’ve always been pretty empathetic, but with her it’s next level. I’m like a little sponge, soaking up her vibe. All I really want is to be happy with my kids, to treat them kindly, to feel good about our time together. I didn’t feel that way last night. I felt terrible, actually, and ashamed at losing my cool. I went to bed early just to be done with it.

Today is a new day, though. I ran to the store at 6 to buy sugar, and the streets were deserted, the sky still dark as night. At the stop sign down the road, the twinkling lights of Monterey spread out across the bay, and the heaviness in my chest leftover from last night lifted. It’s still early. The possibilities are endless.

It is 7:17 now, and my daughters are still sleeping- the big one in the little one’s bed, and the little one in my bed. I wonder if they know, if they will ever really know…how much I love them? Exactly as they are, whoever they should become, no matter what they do. My love for them is…profound. It is the definition of unconditional. No hormonal “I hate you!” or “You’re a TERRIBLE mother!” could penetrate or even disturb the fortress wall that is my love for them. As a matter of fact, the cruel things said, the unintentional slights, the outright insults? They slide right off that wall, forgotten almost immediately. Ironically, Aisley cries to me sometimes about terrible things she said to me when she was younger that I don’t even remember. It means nothing, I tell her. I forgave you before the words left your mouth.

I am proud of them. I am proud of them, and in awe of them, and amazed by the people they are, knowing it has nothing to do with me. They are their own little souls, forging their own paths in life, separate from me, but entwined also. Most of all, I just feel so incredibly lucky to know them. To get to have a hand in any of this. To have had my life so enriched by loving them, and getting to be part of it all. I mean, I feel so privileged.

Later today, when Aisley is complaining for the fifteenth time about how much she “just HATES people, I mean, they are EVERYWHERE!”, or Camryn asks me what she can eat for the seventh time in two hours, I will forget all of this. I will roll my eyes, I will sigh heavily, I will probably snap “You can’t possibly be hungry again already! You’re just bored! Go find something to do!” If I’m lucky, I’ll go to bed tonight feeling like I handled things okay, that I did an okay job. If I’m not, I’ll go to bed beating myself up and wishing I’d done better. In short, whichever way it goes, I’ll go to bed feeling the same feelings that mothers everywhere feel- the good days could have been a little better, the bad days are the end of the world. You can’t really win.

But at the heart of it all is this vast and unchangeable love. Perfect, but heavier than the world. It fulfills me in a way that I never expected, and that nothing else ever has. Yet it is also terrifying, the depths of it, the way it matters- I could survive many things, but I cannot contemplate a life without them. Anything but that. Given the choice to live my life over, I know I would painstakingly recreate every moment, every poor choice, every failure, just to wind up with these two girls. It’s not even a question. It’s just a given.

I am many things, but none of them matters more to me than being a mother to them. Nothing else even comes close. I wonder if they know?