Yesterday, had you peeped in my window around noon, you would’ve witnessed me dancing and singing in pajamas, my baby up in the air like Simba on the Lion King. And while peeping into our one-room home is totally possible, you may not have been able to make out two key things. One. I was singing loudly to a song that I’ve never given any particular love, even so, it lives in the hindbrain of my childhood vintage collection. Two. That I was being totally spontaneous, in flow, for the first time in a long time. Even for me, these two facts were a Sister Golden Hair surprise.
People said to get some sleep. To go to the movies, on dates. To do all the things (high five Allie Brosh). They said I’d be tired, disheveled, disconnected to my husband and lost inside myself. They warned me about projectile poops, loss of personal hygiene and physical changes that would never self-correct. You’ll be in love, they’d say, but you’ll also be underwater. Although most of that sounded soul-crushing (another warning), I went forward anyway because, well, biology and unnamable urges.
Now, in the words of my cousin, “I’ve got me one.” And he’s an adorable little sucker. It’s true, dinner dates are gone, movies are gone and I’ve got bad breath and a stain on my shirt. I do love him like a pig loves corn but there are other, more earth shattering changes. Everyone was so busy telling me all the positives that would go away that they forgot to mention there’s a whole world of negatives that left with them.
I’m a new age workaholic. If you’re not familiar, it’s just like your classic workaholic only I cobble together multiple contractor jobs that allow me to wear spandex and talk about holistic living without being tied down to all the bells and whistles of full time company employment. I tried regular over-worked office workerdom when I was 20 only to abandon it when the boss scoffed at my lack of pantyhose. I much prefer the granola-y confines of yoga studios, retreat centers and my own home…places where I’m judged for both my skepticism of essential oils and my baby’s distaste for co-sleeping.
I’ll get to the two key lessons. One. I work too much. During the last 7 years, I’ve been in school full time in addition to working approximately 5 jobs. Usually all at the same time. The intensity of this has changed month to month but it’s all been there in some fashion in a Jenga pile on my plate. I worked as a teaching assistant at the university, ran teacher trainings, started a small yoga business, traveled internationally to teach yoga, taught private clients, designed curriculum, mentored for a yoga therapy program and tried to finish a book I was hired to write. True story. And lesson two? It’s that the core of most of these jobs is teaching people how to relax, which often requires simplifying. The plumbers pipes in French? They are fucked.
So back to the baby. The irresistible, date-night sabotaging baby. Basically my life (the plate, if you’ve lost me or if you’re scanning this) has gone from a Thanksgiving potluck to a starter at an overpriced restaurant. My last month of pregnancy, fell most fortunately around the holidays. My husband and I found ourselves less occupied with responsibility and more occupied with waiting for our son (whom we lovingly call Snarfles). Cue lots of down time with movies, dinners, sparkling conversation. We even made time to join throngs of children to see the local zoo’s new cougar cubs. A very pregnant, very emotional lady plus baby big cats, it was cinematic.
Then came Snarfles. Sure, it was hard, like discovering the cat had peed in the bed on our first night home. And sure, our lives changed, like living by candlelight after 8pm (remember we live in a peepable loft?), but I still hadn’t picked up my overflowing sack of assignments. With only one thing on my plate, I’ve been slowly floating back up to the surface after being leagues under the sea. It’s fantastic. I can almost taste the air.
Nice metaphors but what does it mean? It means that I’ve spent more time with my husband in the last 4 months than in the last 4 years. Quality time filled with titillating conversation that isn’t just about the boy. It means that I’ve read nearly two-dozen books for fun. Reading, my once favorite pastime had long since gone the way of the cassette tape. Seven hours of daily nursing means seven hours of hot kindle action (I am way into WWII these days if you have a recommendation). It means picking up the dusty guitar to poorly sing Snarfles into fits of appropriate laughter and reconnecting with old friends and their clans that I previously never had time for. Never made time for. I was too busy and too proud to be otherwise.
I get it. This is a special pause in time…monumental life change married to maternity leave. It can’t go on forever but that’s not even the issue. Whether or not I decide to pile too much broccoli rice onto the already heaping potato salad and green bean casserole is up to me. The magic here is the pause, the air. If having a baby makes you lose yourself, I’m more myself when lost than found. I was so far under second and third helpings I couldn’t wildly sing along with a muskrat loving seventies band. You may not be into America but how can you not be into being in the flow? And how can that not be a better place to be?
The same people that told me I’d lose myself when I became a mother also said that’d my child would be my greatest teacher. I’d call those people half right, like most of us are, most of the time. Snarfles has slowed down my life to a pace where I can see clearly again. Attending to his cries and frustrations in this slow speed allows me to see what I’m really made of. The veneer of my minute to minute has changed but now I can see the bones that make me mom, teacher, sister, friend, wife, and I can see where they are broken. It’s not a question of “who am I now?” but “who did I become when I was ignoring myself?” And it’s a damn fine question. So the next time you see me, if I’m singing subpar hits with an infant on my head, you’ll know I’m in the business of answering it.