Friday, August 3, 2012

where are we going?

There were lots of reasons I didn't need to drive north Wednesday night. First of all, it was Wednesday. It was 8:00pm. I was sweaty from another long and beautiful and exhausting evening at church. I had decided not to go to the Boundary Waters with my cousins this weekend. My husband's soccer season started that day, which means the "Meta Show" is not filming new episodes for awhile. It's Matt's turn to be engulfed by work - to come home late and sometimes bring work with him. I've had six months to focus on this new call and now it's time to get balanced.

I drove to Duluth. My kid wore pjs and chugged a bottle and then, as the sunlight faded, his light snoring filled the quiet car. I traded my sunglasses for the real deal and relaxed into the rhythm of I-35. So why was I driving north, anyway?

I still didn't know when I got there. At ten thirty, Mark and Beth came outside, eager to see little Jasper and to help me unpack my car for the night. These are my cousin's in-laws. And they're super hospitable and kind and wise and good at cooking. Their house functions as an underground B&B, filled with extra bedrooms that welcome weary travelers of all kinds. They loan out canoes and rope and maps to friends (and friends of friends) venturing further north. They put coffee on early and their pancakes are shaped like hearts. If you're Scandinavian, you probably take that for granted. You're used to vafler. But those hearts mean something, man. There's great mercy in breakfast that friendly-looking.

They pulled out old toys and Jasper was wildly entertained. And then I fell into conversation with Beth about motherhood and church and working and loving what you do and boundaries and rest and the village of loved ones who make it all happen.

It's good to listen to women who have done and are doing the things I hope to do. It's good to be in their homes, wondering about all those little choices they made that manifested a big picture over time - little brush strokes and consistent rituals that paved a relationship between work and family, the public and the personal.

I drove away from Beth and Mark's gaining confidence in my choice to take a day for writing and reading and conversation up north. A strange Thursday apart from the crossroads of August 1 in my life back home. I needed to discern and listen and research. A sweaty Jasper fell asleep as we weaved through the green streets of Duluth toward Aunt Gudrun's house. She and Geof and Laura and Vibeke had more to teach me about good roots and habits for autumn.

I've written about Gudrun before. She is an Earth Mother and a chaplain and a free soul who proclaims a sense of contentment in a world that's filled with dissatisfaction. Her statements are loud and joyful and they invite you to join her in this freedom. So I do. Sometimes I just invite myself up because I need a dose of this beauty. And then her daughter Laura comes over and the party starts. Laura brings an energy that compliments Gudrun's, filled with sass and compassion and the softness of motherhood. Vibeke is Jasper's age with bright blue eyes and a mischievous grin.

We talked about some of the same things I'd asked Beth earlier. I thought a lot about the habits Matt and I are forming in front of an increasingly aware Jasper. I thought about the way he whines and clings to my legs every time I put shoes on or jingle keys...because he's certain I'm leaving without him for a long day at work. I thought about how many times he was looking at me with glee yesterday, touching my cheek, and grinning widely as if to say, "We're on a trip, Mommy. We're just hanging out, you and me!" I thought about the way he's getting more comfortable at church - more friendly with members and familiar with the building. I thought about how often those worlds - Jasper and church - will blend and blur this fall. And I thought about how that makes me feel both out of control and totally fine. He'll come to some meetings or hang out during funerals or bring nursery toys into my office some mornings.

Here's what I learned this weekend.

1. Choices.
No. Women can't have it all. But we sure do have a lot of choices. And there are pros and cons to each of those choices. And whenever we make a choice, there are ten women and blogs and professionals lined up to critique that choice. So when you make one, own it. Live it out with confidence. And when you feel tempted to stand in line critiquing someone else's choice that's different from yours, stop. Think about why her choice makes you insecure about your choice. Then take a deep breath and pour a glass of wine and toast her for also taking advantage of the choice menu. I studied Women's Studies in college. I'm just now sensing the challenges and benefits of being a women in this time and place. I need to start owning them with grace and gratitude.

2. Rest.
I love sleep. And I love a lake rich with waves. And I love time away from my computer. And I love being around my kid when he's got a runny nose because wiping it after a big snot rocket is strangely satisfying. I need to take more "1 day vacays". Even if I don't drive anywhere. I need to get out of my routine because it surprises me with joy and seems to have the same affect on Jasper.

3. Matt.
I have a fabulous partner. Matt and I are so different in some ways, but our values align well. We co-parent in ways I'm very proud of. We both get to do what we love, so it's easy to support each other when it comes to weird hours and student loans. I'm ready to find balance so I can support him this fall like he's supported me this spring.

4. You know a lot.
There's a lot of goofy information out there about parenting right now. Like fad diets, people get really into this method or that method. They swear by it. It's universal. It's superior. (It's exhausting. It's divisive. It's overrated.) People have been parenting FOREVER. And the most lovely and bright and experienced parents I know all have one piece of advice that stands out: trust your instincts. When I don't, I regret it.  When I do, I gain confidence and balance finds me in the midst of chaos.

5. Good humor.
I have a dear friend with a newborn right now and she's rocking it. The truth is, she's so tired and stressed and beautiful and emotional and multi-tasking, she doesn't know that she's rocking it. We're both oldest daughters who like control. We expect a lot from ourselves. We've been called well rounded and take great pride in that. But that personality combined with a newborn is like a sucker punch in the face every three hours. Suddenly, nothing is done as well or as timely. We get self-conscious about the ways our relationships change and the dishes pile up in the sink. "Does it get better?" she asked. "I mean, when will I feel like myself again and able to do all of this?" My heart ached and I loved her even more. What a woman.

Sorry, sweetie. I'm not there yet. And we might never be. Our new life report card will include C+ and D- scores now and then. But you know what we can ace? Self-effacing humor. An increasing ability to let things slide. Supporting each other. 

One of Jasper's favorite books is called Be Happy. I think it's written for tired adults. "Make friends. Share what you have. Don't compare yourself with others. Never give up. You never know what tomorrow will bring. So have fun. And be happy about being you!" Each page makes me smile. Especially the, "Be happy about being you!" page. Because I am. I really am.

Sometimes it takes a drive north to regroup and move that content joy and gratitude out front.

This morning Geof and Gudrun and Jasper and I walked down to the beach. Geof threw sticks for Sally to retrieve (always in her own time) while Gudrun talked with neighbors. We stood on a wide open beach that filled quickly with their love and kind presence. The waves were rowdy and warm. Jasper grinned from behind his Nuk each time I swished his feet in the water and pretended to drop him into the foam. Our clothes were wet and he cuddled with me for warmth.

This is why we came, Buddy. Now let's go home and see Daddy.

1 comment:

val said...

< I'm just now sensing the challenges and benefits of being a women in this time and place. I need to start owning them with grace and gratitude.>

YES. I grew up in the 70s, and they were a very weirdly sexist time. Evolving, but strange.

Now is better. Plus people talk about things. Jasper will hear about your ambivalence and confusion and the two of you will talk about it.

Now that my kids are grown, we have some interesting conversations about the trade offs and struggles and personal shortcomings of mine and Jay's that we lived through.

Now that they have kids, the layers and complications of life are apparent to them. Sigh. They're struggling with it all too!

I wanted to make everything perfect, and yet I couldn't. Between ME and life, perfect wasn't meant to be, I guess.

They are forgiving.

That little guy is going to become one of your very dearest friends. I am sure of that.

Glad for some luscious time away, time with your baby, with people who love you and uphold you both, and Matt too. love, Val