Sunday, September 20, 2020

Focus on What Matters


I haven't written here since the pandemic swept away the version of normal we were living, because I wasn't quite sure what to say. I'm still not, but I am going to say a few things anyway. We've been through one full lockdown and may be entering another. I must confess that I don't mind much about this potential second one. We learned a lot of lessons in the first one about appropriate levels of preparedness, and I think that we will be fairly comfortable through a second one. Which makes us some of the lucky ones, I know.

To be honest, I don't understand the people who are grousing about things going back to normal and needing to get out and and do all the things they like to do again. My compassion and empathy extends primarily to those who have lost loved ones, who have had Covid and are still recovering, who have lost jobs and homes and all the big things that are essential to living. I think it is petty and disrespectful to complain about wearing masks and not getting to go to brunch. There are so many worse things. 

I do miss things that we used to be able to do, but it's a trade off. Because this slower pace has benefited us greatly. To have the pressures on our time, our energy, our money erased in one fell swoop was in no way a tragedy. We were busy, we were tired, we were a bit on edge in too many ways. And yet we couldn't seem to remedy the problem. I was saying no and quitting doing things that weren't a good fit, but things were still incredibly stressful in the day to day, for me, for my husband, for our kids. We have all expressed relief at not having so much to do anymore. We are not keen to go back to the old way of living.

For me personally, lockdown has pulled the things that matter into sharper focus. Far from being tired of having less to do and wanting to take on more, I have realized that there are more things I need to quit doing if I want to be the kind of person that I long to be, if I want to do what I do well. While we have been homebound, I have swapped frenzied activity for pursuits that are sustaining and sustainable. So as we have eased back into doing things outside of home, I have put time limits on some of them. Others I've committed to making part of the life that I want to create for myself and for my family, so that as we extend our activities outside our own home, we are well prepared.

It's not been the easiest thing, figuring all this out, but I have come to a place of feeling peace about how things are now and where we are headed in the future. I am working on letting things unfold, being diligent in the ways I need to be diligent and otherwise allowing room to just be. I know that there will be more to learn and new ways to adjust as we go forward. In particular I want to make sure that these good things that have come to us translate into us sharing that good with others, especially those who are suffering as a result of the pandemic. 

But I feel as if we have time, a little space to breathe and figure it out. Keeping close to home gave that to me, to us as a family. I'm not sure just how to express gratitude for this when what gave it to me has been so awful for so many. But I am thankful to be here now. At home, with things in better focus.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Legacy of the 2010s

I wasn't going to make a big deal about it being a new decade. What is ten years? Just a measure of time, some would say an arbitrary one. But 2010 was the year that made of me something I hadn't been before, and thus that decade changed me straight out of the gate. In 2010, a judge declared that I was legally someone's mother. And again the same in 2012. Two daughters. There is nothing that has changed me - and my entire life's trajectory - more than they have. For the better.

I live in an entirely different country because shortly after we returned from the vacation during which this photo was taken, in London, I realized that I could do better for my children than the city in which I had gotten comfortable. I dreamt of a future in San Francisco, of putting down roots, until I didn't. And I credit my children with reviving a dream we'd had years earlier, that got set aside in the whirlwind of parenthood and just plain life. Would we have moved to London if it weren't for them? I'm not sure. My husband and I give very different answers when asked why we moved to London, so maybe we would've done it anyhow. But for me, it was for the kids that I got serious about it, and I would've happily stayed in our flat with a view of the ocean if I hadn't felt that this city would be better for them. Which is not to say that I didn't want it for myself as well, because I did. I had just given it up in favor of embracing where we had landed at that time.

Many women speak of losing themselves in the midst of motherhood. In many ways I feel like it made more of me, gave me more than it took and continues to take. Living in this city isn't even the half of it. I am gentler with myself. I see more clearly what really matters. I am softer and also stronger, in mind and in body. In this past decade of caring for my children, indeed of giving up most of my time and energy to care for and educate them, I have experienced how fleeting this time is. Giving so much of myself over to the part of me that is labeled mother during this season has not been a mistake. This I learned during the 2010s. My kids only have one childhood, and it is going by so incredibly fast. I look back on the 2010s as the golden years that they were. We were together, the four of us, more than we ever will be in the future.

This precious time in which they are with me most of all will be gone in a year and a half if Z's plans for her education hold firm, and then from there proceeds the slow transition into a time in which mothering will not be the main thing I do. The 2020s will take us into E's last year of compulsory education, but beyond that I don't really know what will be going on. I welcome whatever the gifts and lessons of the 2020s will be, because the 2010s have been so generous to me. I have some hopes, but few expectations. I learned that from the 2010s as well, to let go a little of my tightly held desires and plans. Things have turned out better than I hoped and planned in all the ways that matter. I know I sign off a lot by saying this, but it remains true: I am grateful.