As I mentioned in my previous post, Saturday Night Live(s), I went out of town alone this past weekend for my birthday. Three mornings in a hotel to sleep in as late as I wanted, two long days in the middle to do as I please, and three relaxing nights to spend however I wanted to spend them. I had a wonderful time, being pampered at a spa, practicing yoga, going for a run, shopping, and being taken out to lunch. It was blissful and exciting, with some unexpected surprises... everything a birthday should be!
Upon my return home, however, it was a challenge for me to confront the reality of my responsibilities as a mom, and even harder to step up to the task of loving and nurturing my kids. I know that sounds terrible, not being able to muster up these feelings after a few days away from them, when only a few short days before, all my energy was focused on doing just that. But after those few days of feeling like me, JUST me - not a mom, not a wife, not a daughter or a sister, but a woman with her own wants and needs being met independent of any necessity to fulfill others wants and needs - I didn't want it to end.
I had liked being called "Miss" instead of "Ma'am" by people in stores and restaurants, and enjoyed having others notice me as an attractive woman, rather than someone's "looks like she'd clean up pretty good if she made the effort" mom. It's amazing what a somewhat-sexy outfit, carefree smile and the absence of children as appendages of your arms will do for your appearance - how it drastically changes how people see you… and how you see yourself.
I enjoyed feeling alluring and appealing during my shopping and lunch outings, as feeling that way these days most often has been relegated to an isolated date night out or the occasional holiday party for which I dressed up. So I didn't want to give that feeling up just yet. Especially since I could expect that my next shopping trip or lunch out would involve a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old attached to my arms once again, and the impending "Ma'ams" would follow, as the sales people would resume addressing me with that "respectful" designation.
So not being ecstatic to see my kids again felt troubling, as they were so happy to see me the first few seconds of our reunion. Yet, promptly, and I mean literally within minutes, both of them individually broke down into piles of sobbing kid messes, creating an overwhelming energy that was so pervasive to my temporarily autonomous being that I wanted to turn around, drive back to my hotel, and stay there forever. Although I could easily attribute these weeping jags to the overall anxiety they must have been feeling, coming out of a weekend absent of their regular schedule, rituals and routines that make their lives comfortably structured… that didn't make it any easier for me to take.
After all, it's a tall order... shifting gears from carefree days ripe with possibilities for exciting things to happen, to the challenging grind and convention of the school week. Tough for both the kids and me. While away, I felt alive in a way I hadn't in a long time, and I couldn't help but feel guilty for feeling so good.
So after the anticipation of a relaxing and fun-filled weekend, the actual pleasure of the events I enjoyed, and the climax of three days of feeling like my own person again, the weight of my life fell hard on me that morning of my return home. Upon my arrival, I was thrusted back into my routine, not totally the picture of the satisfied, refreshed and revitalized woman I expected to be.
It was the freedom - I had tasted it, and I wanted more. More time there. More of a break from this routine of school lunches and dirty socks thrown on the floor by the front door.
But it was not to be, and I had to face it.
It's easy to get so caught up in a certain feeling or circumstance that for a moment you forget that there is still joy to be had back in the harried world you left… it's just a starkly different kind of joy, and you just got to be ok with that, or you're sunk.
Nevertheless, on that day, the joy I usually find in my kids alluded me, and I wished I was still on the other side of the sliding door, on my dreamy escapade, where an alternate reality was possible, if only for a short while. Was it better to have tasted it and then miss it, or would I have been better off not having it in the first place?
The next morning, both kids left for school and I was left to myself again, at least for a few hours. Now… I had a choice. I could let my desire for what I had this weekend overcome me and leave me wanting; or I could step up, accept the present, and focus on what is good right here, right now.
After all, what choice did I really have? The only choice available to me was the attitude to adopt. It is fascinating how powerful your thinking can be on your behavior. It has the opportunity to be equally destructive or uplifting. That morning, I chose uplifting. I found the trick is to channel those strong emotions so they flow, not erratically, but calmly into a state of acceptance and light.
It is a very Zen concept, and one that I am in love with these days… one of acceptance for what happens in your life, without placing judgment on it as either good or bad. The idea is that, since no one really knows what's in store for them next, predicting whether something will either render them a good or a bad result is futile. It is of greater benefit to you to approach things with an attitude of acceptance, all the while honoring what you are feeling and not judging it according to what you think "should be."
This line of thinking would have benefitted me greatly if I had employed it more effectively the previous morning; but alas, I just wasn't as mindful that morning. Maybe I should have meditated in my hotel room before checking out.
As I sit here now, I am struck with the idea that there is no reason I couldn't meld these two alternate realities together so that I can experience both simultaneously. Have the best of both worlds, as it were. Why the hell not? I can be a hot, attractive mom even when I'm out with my kids... I can feel free and excited for the possibility of what today could bring, even on a Monday while I prepare school lunches. All it would require is a little discipline, some forethought, and a positive attitude.
I am not the victim of my circumstances, but rather the navigator of my future. I am not a mere passenger on the journey of my life, but rather a competent driver of my own destiny.
That evening, after pajamas were on and teeth were brushed, I read my son his bedtime book and settled him into bed. Before I could ask him which song he wanted me to sing out of my extensive bedtime song repertoire, he looked up at me, caressed my cheek softly, and sang a verse of one of his favorite songs that I sing, changing one word to fit: "Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful... Beautiful Mommy."
That did it. That single, simple act brought to the forefront what is precious and amazing about this reality. I knew it was always there, it just got buried under the dirty socks by the front door for a day. And that little voice singing to me… it gave the sales clerk at the mall calling me "Miss" a run for his money.
I smiled and then I sang the same song back to him in its entirety, changing one word to fit:
"Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monster's gone,
He's on the run and your (Mommy's) here...
Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day in every way,
It's getting better and better...
Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we'll both
Just have to be patient,
'Cause it's a long way to go, a hard row to hoe
Yes, it's a long way to go, but in the meantime...
Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans...
"Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon