This is what I look like most days... baseball cap, yoga or running clothes, sunglasses, no makeup. No glamour, no glitz. No sign of professional success or status. No power lunches, business trips, or expense accounts. No coffee dates, happy hour hang outs, or peer camaraderie.
This is what I do most days... DRIVE. Me in the car, alone. For miles. That is, until I am descended upon by little minds and hearts and souls with their meltdowns, attitudes, bargaining, hunger, crankiness, and loudness (and at times, cuteness).
Whether it is up and down the coast highway or over the canyon to the valley, I live in a place where I have to drive quite a few miles to get anywhere.
This is a typical Monday, when I drive the same stretch of PCH four times. Seventeen miles down the coast from home to my son's school, nine miles back up to my daughter's school, ten miles back down to ballet class, a mile to the library with my son while she dances, that same mile back to pick her up, and then a final eighteen miles up the coast to home for the night. Fifty-six miles logged in four hours without leaving Malibu.
On days like these, it's hard to feel like I've accomplished anything or was at all efficient in my day. Am I doomed to be the horribly inefficient underachiever I feel I am at this stage in my life? Is my dream of being Mrs. Goal Reacher and meeting all the (possibly unrealistic) expectations I put on myself on any given day just an illusion? It seems like other people get so much accomplished in the span of a single work day (albeit many hours longer than mine) while I have been feeling extremely underwhelmed by my ability to do the same, because of the limit on my time. Or is it more because I am just not as organized and pulled together as them or as I once was?
When I still had a toddler at home, it was expected (and perfectly acceptable) to do less, to get less done, and to be less efficient. After all, there was a little person demanding my attention in a myriad of ways, and that always took precedence. It had to. I was being a mom and doing all kinds of important mom stuff, all day long. My success in that was easily rated by the smile on the kid's face, the fullness of his tummy and the dryness of his diaper... and the fact that we both simply survived another harried day of toddlerdom, relatively unscathed.
But now, it is different. No one's here but me. There's no excuse for a day (or at least, a morning) not ripe with boxes checked, goals reached, and missions accomplished. When you once were a person who worked a full time job as a single, successful professional, often lauded by your employer and peers for your ability to get stuff done quick and get it done well, you remember that driven and organized version of yourself and you kinda miss being her. You sometimes wish you were her again. You think you can conjure her up to perform on the same level as she did before; like the last ten years of all the baby making and isolated domestication didn't happen. And although some remnants of the former you are still in there (albeit ten years older), she just isn't flourishing as well as she used to in this messy and unpredictable environment that has replaced her former kid-free and organized life.
Now a five hour work day at home (interrupted by moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, folding and putting laundry away, or emptying and filling the dishwasher) feels anything but productive, at least in the self congratulatory, "Yay me!" kind of way that getting to do the work you love or finding the satisfaction in accomplishing what you set out to do that day does. And it is most definitely no match for a full workday outside the home where you are held accountable to, and appreciated by, someone other than yourself for completing your tasks and making cool stuff happen in the world. I know I could be getting so much further in my ambition to share, connect, and inspire through my work and my writing, if only I just had a few more hours each day to share, connect, and inspire.
Is this really my life now? This chaotic and harried existence in which I sacrifice so much of me for the "them" in my life? Things are not going to be exactly how I want them to be all the time, I know. Actually, they are not most of the time. This I understand and accept, to a certain degree, even if I do so a little begrudgingly. However, I often have to stop and remind myself that, each and every day, no matter what I get done or don't get done in my own realm of work, websites, and writing, I am still always accomplishing something: LIFE.
Yes, this is my life, these are my days and those are my kids who are learning, experiencing and growing. They do all these things, go all these places, and learn all these things, because of me. Because I am their caretaker. Because I am their shepherd. Because I am the one that promotes and encourages and facilitates these opportunities and journeys they have.
It is easy to feel like a mere shuttle driver in their lives while we move from place to place, in and out of the car and in and out of experiences. I sometimes have to remind myself to accept, be present, and recognize that I too am on this journey, and that this is my time too. My time to hang out, have fun, and enjoy them at these ages. My time to support and guide them, love and protect them, learn and grow with them.
Regardless of all the things my mind may think up or my heart may yearn for that go unfulfilled each day, I realize that when I am with them, I am exactly where I need to be and am doing exactly what I need to do.
Yes, I know all this. I do all this. I rise up (most of the time) and kick ass at all this. But it is still hard. And it may always be hard. To get out of my ego. To surrender some of my deepest desires for theirs and to find new and different ones of my own. To escape the intoxicating mode of busyness and the lure of personal aspiration. To deal with their strong emotions, growing pains, and kid-sized hurts (alongside my adult-sized ones) while still trying to be a model and example of human decency, empathy, compassion, and love.
Life as a grown-up is hard. Life as a parent is hard. Life as a spouse is hard. Life as a feeling, driven, passionate, and naturally flawed person is hard. It's all so hard. Yet it's all so easy. It's all so devastating, and it's all so wonderful. It's all so... much. Just sometimes. It's challenging, beautiful, f'ed up, and contradictory. It tests our patience, resilience, and resolve; and it dares us to live it the best way we know how.
It has been said by many, in many variations, that "We are the choices we make." Nothing could be both more painfully and inspirationally true. Our realities are built on what we have previously chosen for ourselves; and to accept, or better yet, embrace this truth, is essential.
So it stands to reckon that our futures will then be determined by what choices we make next. We steer our lives from where they have come to where they will go. We are the sum of our past efforts + our current attitudes to = create our future realities. We are our perspective, we are our hope. We are our awareness, our positivity, our perseverance. We are always evolving, as long as we are paying attention, and we are always learning. And although we may need to stay the course of the commitments and obligations that have already been routed for and by us, we can still venture out and explore new roads along the way, possibly forging new paths that will transform us to who we will be in the future.
All it takes is looking forward. FORWARD, NOT BACK. We're not going that way anyway, so who we were in the past can inform us, but doesn't have to define us. Even though we are the choices we have made, we are also the ones we make today, and we will be the ones we make tomorrow.
Make them count. Make them wisely. Make them without fear and without regret. Make them for you, your spouse, your kids, your life; and make them without the influence of ANYONE who may want to steer you to do so for their advantage, for their benefit, for their ego.
You may be miles away from who you were, but you are now on the road to who you will be. You have nothing to lose but your resistance and fear, and nothing to gain but the life you want to create.