Introverted Enlightenment

I never should have read this article.

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Surviving as an Introverted Mother by Kristen Howerton

Sure, it convinced me that I wasn’t a terrible mother.  That it was okay not to desire constant physical contact.  To crave down-time, alone time.  To require it.  For my mental and emotional well-being.

Wow.

What a refreshing and liberating concept.  And validating.

It told me what my soul already knew.  But that my conscience(?) told me was a fault, a failing.  A roadblock to caring for my children in the best way possible or giving them full affection.

All bull$h!t – except that the needs of modern motherhood don’t care about the stirrings of the soul.

Shortly after reading that resonant article, my children started summer vacation.

It’s all-kid, all-the-time.  My three little darlings with me and each other 24/7.

It’s an adjustment for all of us.  A change in schedule, company, routine. And no opportunity for down-time.

Ironically, the article that liberated me only a few weeks ago has imprisoned me in a summer cell now.

Maybe I wouldn’t be feeling such ennui at the equinox if I hadn’t received that introverted enlightenment.

If I thought that running roughshod with constant company, arts and crafts extravaganzas, beach days and late nights was status quo, maybe I wouldn’t be feeling so full – and not in a fulfilled way, but in an I-ate-a-little-of-everything-on-the-buffet-table-at-the-cookout-and-then-went-back-for-seconds sort of way.

But that enlightened author, in touch with her inner introvert, showed me a glimpse of eternal bliss and I can’t unsee it.  If only I could see some quiet time in the future.

Time to Stand Up

We’ve got a little Lord of the Flies action going on at my house.

And I don’t mean as part of our summer reading experience.

Day Three of summer vacation and we’ve already seen power struggles, fisticuffs, name-calling, water-dousing, food-stealing, all-around controlled mayhem.

Anticipation of vacation got them started the weekend before. You could feel the venom bubbling below the surface; the obnoxious volume gearing up; the cruel and unusual punishment saved especially for siblings coming out in dribs and drabs.

I sensed the need for a preemptive strike. Instituting a schedule would work. Not as rigid as school days, but some shape to their days so we all knew what to expect.

But activities are already pulling us here and there – and the lazy lull of summer is pulling me into a lovely unregimented sway.

But those little insects won’t let me rest for long. And before they pummel each other to the point of no return, I best set up some semblance of civilized society.

Our lives depend upon it.

schmoop.com

schmoop.com

Raising Hackles

Just before Samuel Slater arrived in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and unleashed the Industrial Revolution this side of the Atlantic, women made all the clothing needed by their families. Not for hobby, not out of a profound sense of affection, but out of necessity.

Jennifer Butler Basile

Jennifer Butler Basile

She would pick the flax she’d grown in a plot just outside her door, she’d separate the seeds from the soft fluff she needed to then card, spin, and weave on a loom – to then measure and sew the actual garment. A process which took one to two years.

One to two years! For one garment of clothing!

Our tour guide at the Slater Mill historical site told us that weaving five yards of fabric a day was only one of a woman’s daily duties during this time period. She also tended to the garden – weeding, harvesting, maintaining. She rose well before the family to start the fire in the hearth – the only heat source for cooking – and continually tended and adjusted it throughout the day according to their needs. She baked bread. She scoured the wooden troughs from which her children communally ate. She cleaned the house. And she, you know, mothered.

Around the time we viewed the loom larger than my bathroom at home, I got the sense that I could never complain again about loading and emptying the dishwasher. An overwhelming heaviness overtook me, thinking of all the duty and drudgery to which a woman of that time was subject.

We modern mothers are overcome – stretched to the limit with carting and carrying, worry and work, busyness and pains in the butt. But really, if we don’t get to the watering and our lettuce wilts at the root, we can go to the drive-through and buy a salad in a pretty plastic clamshell. It is not a matter of life or death. We can order clothing online and it magically appears at our door. Knitting is done for fun, for stress-relief.

But, still, it’s hard.

So how do any one of us – down through the eons – complete the insurmountable task that is nurturing and growing a family to fruition​?

Did the woman who sat at this now-wavy glass window lament her daily list of chores? Did she wish to prick her finger and fall to sleep indefinitely? Or did she revel in the present moment – unhindered by history and future? Handing herself over to the inevitability of the the task at hand and the survival of her family?

Jennifer Butler Basile

Jennifer Butler Basile

Another mother chaperoning our trip said they must’ve prayed for berry season. ‘Berry salad for dinner, kids!’ ‘Even they had to find ways to make life easier, right?’ Perhaps they did. Perhaps they created their own historical life hacks. Their artifacts and traditions live to tell their tales so something stuck.

I should feel my life is easier in comparison to what I saw that day. In the thick of my own mothering melee, I appreciate the lesson, but don’t yet feel it in my bones. Still, I do feel solidarity with all the mothers down through the eons who have and do fight the good fight.

It is woven into the fiber of our being.

Inspiration Vacation

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

                                                        ~ Pablo Picasso

Pablo frowned on me as I fell asleep on the couch beside my daughter watching Nick Jr. Strains of the Bubble Guppies floated in and out of my consciousness as I fought to open my eyes. It was not a restful sleep.

I’d already tended to the water needs of my newly transplanted shrubs and vegetable garden. We’d seen her two elder sisters off to the bus stop. I’d ordered groceries online. I’d done stuff. But I hadn’t made my cup of tea and parked my keister at the writing table.

Which makes me nervous for this summer.

Right now it’s only one kid; in a week and a half, it will be three.

How do I write when they’re all here? Or to distill it even further – how do I keep them busy to buy myself writing time?

Don’t want to plop them in front of TV – because I still have that whole ‘rotting their brains’ hang-up and they’ll most likely pinch and poke each other while they watch and I don’t want Donald and Daisy counting their Toodles options as a running soundtrack to my work.

I’d rather have them invested in a somewhat productive, independent venture – but what would that be? Or to distill it even further – what would actually stick and buy me a solid chunk of uninterrupted time?

Writer moms and dads – preach! Please!

I have a feeling it will take a little bit of neglect, ignoring, and nasty sugar-laden treats. Or a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s. Only hot, sticky summer days will tell.

I Wept

For the pregnant woman
who loved her child enough to stop taking the psychopharmaceuticals she desperately needed
to guarantee its unencumbered growth –
and that of her paranoia and compulsion
until she threw herself and that unborn child off the top of her building

Because she loved her child so much and had run out of ways to keep her safe

For the grown man
acutely aware of his condition and how to manage it
with a cocktail of meds and careful counseling –
until one tile shifts out of place and sends the rest clattering to the floor in an instant

Because he thought he didn’t have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life

I wept for their stories, their lives, their pain
I wept for the syncronicity, the melancholy, myself

I wept
because there is never a safe enough distance from the places they – I’ve – been

 

 

As inspired by the June 6th edition of Fresh Air, “Pregnant Women With Depression Face Tough Choices, No Easy Answers” with author Andrew Solomon.  Click below to listen – well worth the time.

pregnant-depression

Just a Few More Minutes . . .

I sometimes wonder if the fates send us a sickness to slow us down.

A break in schedule.
A pass on commitments.
A pardon for obligations.

Congestion, exhaustion,
a detached, dizzy, light-headedness –
simply unable to function.

And when it lifts,
euphoria at a new lease on life,
reinvigoration,
excitement for all the possibilities –

once I can get out of bed.

from adventureswithgastroparesis.com

from adventureswithgastroparesis.com

What I Learned from my First 5K

The formative moment in my running career is a failure to pace and subsequently puke after a grade school event it took me many years to live down. While I can run, I am no runner. Still, I aim for a modicum of fitness and when my daughters’ school hosted a 5K as a fundraiser, I signed us all up. Here’s what the experience taught me.

  • Forcing children to run is never really a good idea
  • Keeping said children up late the night before to stuff their faces with refined sugar at a s’mores fest . . . you tell me
  • Children will still show us pathetically fit adults up – despite the last two points
  • You can go farther in a slow jog, but not as far as you would think
  • Even the slow-motion jog – one step up from power walking – can become excruciating after awhile
  • I must apologize to all old women of whom I’ve ever made fun for power walking
  • There are many muscles in the pelvic girdle
  • They will all hurt individually if you decide to pound the pavement
  • The physical therapist who put you back together after birthing your third child was a genius
  • You should have continued doing her exercises
  • The young and fleet of foot will lap you before you’ve completed even one revolution
  • Walking 5K is not as wimpy as you initially thought
  • Breezing past the officials at the checkpoint fools no one; they know you walk as soon as you reach the cover of those trees
  • You will hit your stride just in time to finish
Jennifer Butler Basile

Ironically, this year is probably the last I was in shape.  Photo by Jennifer Butler Basile

Field Trip Mania

Two little second graders were in my charge today – as their class and two others descended upon a living maritime museum.  They were cute, the scenery was beautiful, I am exhausted.

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The official documents for the Acushnett, the ship Herman Melville sailed on and whose voyage inspired Moby Dick, were housed in this actual box!

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Turns out the junk is not in the trunk. Who knew?

Shades of the Past

The news of my junior-high-turned-life-long-friend’s father’s death shocked me. It shook me for its suddeness and the blow it served to my friend, his brother, and mother. It also pulled me back into a fold I hadn’t been part of for quite some time.

This family gave me first, the friendship of its younger son, then older brother, deepened by the quasi-adopted status of daughter in a family of boys. Through a childhood bond of the older brother and the wheeling and dealing of the younger, it gave me my husband. When our band of merry men wasn’t tearing into the cul-de-sac in front of their house, we were storming their vacation cottage in the mountains. We ate, drank mai tais the old way, and managed to meet up around the country and world as life took us on its various roads.

But year spooled into year, and suddenly it had been over a decade since I’d visited their home. I didn’t think it would affect me until our car slid into line with the others at the curb, much like it did when we’d jockey for position years ago. Stepping over the threshold from the breezeway to the kitchen, a wave of emotion rolled over me. The same wallpaper, the same linoleum, the same smell. The books, the airshow posters, the tea bags and coffee press. The fresh air billowing in the bathroom window overlooking the backyard. The same futon where three of us had crammed to watch German subtitled movies for English class.

We gathered around the table on the patio and drank the sweet, slushy lemonade of our childhood with a splash of rum from Pappy’s reserve. I don’t think I’d realized how much a place can take on a life of its own. But really, what this place gave me is a better appreciation for the people and times that made it so special.

Andrew Apuya

Andrew Apuya

A Few of My Favorite Things

When a knit stitch pulls through smoothly, with satisfaction

The strength of a bond pulled taut, in spite of the miles

Connection

Certainty

Sun on your face

A wind rushing through the trees,
upturned eyes searching for a brief blot of the sun,
finding an osprey soaring high above

An upsurge of soul,
a welling of emotion

Fleeting, yet profound

We must seek these moments for all they are worth.

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