November 27, 2012

redrawing the boundary lines

Today I emailed the leader of our church small group to tell her that, although it’s a painful decision and we love them, we simply have to find a group that’s closer to us where we can occasionally participate and feel like we’re part of a little community. The group had relocated to a house that takes us 20-25 minutes to drive to right on the edge of rush-hour traffic. As a result, it was a good week when one of us could go. And that didn’t happen very often anymore.

I hated doing that. I’ve put it off for months. Even though we’ve met with most of these people weekly for nearly two years and have eaten together, laughed together, prayed and seen the healing hand of God together. And now we find that, because of how our son has redefined our lives so fundamentally, we have to back out of pretty much everything and start over with what is possible.

The fact is, group starts right about the time we put our son to bed. And right now, that bedtime is more important than pretty much anything else. It’s more important that our social lives. More important than how much time we get to spend playing with him after being at work all day (which is not much).

You’d think that knowing this is a temporary sacrifice would make the transition easier, and that would be true. But while family is top priority, it also adds to the isolation that apparently comes with being a parent of an infant. We thought we’d become part of some larger community of people with babies, but that hasn’t happened either. Instead, most of the women I know who have babies are also about 15-20 years younger than me, so there’s not a lot of common ground.

I’m grateful to be part of a growing online community of new mothers over 40, but that’s not the same as quality time with friends. And it certainly doesn’t help my husband much, who needs that community at least as much as I do.

Looking back, I started redrawing the boundary lines when I was pregnant. The more tired I got, the more activities I pulled out of and the further back I pulled those lines. I kept redrawing them until I admitted that I pretty much couldn’t do anything anymore. That was pure self-preservation and I didn’t feel a whit of guilt for it. But now I do.

I want to be part of community. I want to give of my time, talent and treasure through our church. Now, though, I just have to admit that I can never really say “yes” to anything but only “maybe” and even then I have to be choosy. I’m genuinely baffled when I see people who have more than one child who still volunteer or manage to break away for social activities on a regular basis. It makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong – is there a magic combination and I’m just off by a few numbers? And here I am working four days a week with my husband and one kid, thinking I’m busy (insert sardonic laugh here).

So I guess I’m starting over. I’m erasing the lines I’ve drawn and admitting I don’t know how to draw them anymore. Maybe I’ve been using the wrong pencil? I’m standing outside the puzzle until I figure out how to fit in again, or at least which side needs to be adjusted so I feel like I fit better and know what that looks like. Until then, it’s no commitments and no Yes’s. Just me. One day at a time.

November 16, 2012

ocean dreams

I have been dreaming about the ocean about every other month for a long time now. Not years, but certainly the last couple of years. Every one is unique and beautiful in some ways, but all hold an element of inescapable danger.

The other night, I dreamed that I went down to the beach to join a friend. I noticed that the shore dropped sharply just where the water met the sand. We were talking when I noticed the water level swelling - either the tide was coming in fast or it was a wall of water heading toward us - so I turned to head back, away from the shoreline. It was a hard, uphill climb but I made it to the top of that slope.

But then the landscape in front of me began to undulate just like the waves. It reminded me of an animated movie or Japanese painting, and it was actually beautiful in its own way but I realized I was trapped between the ocean and the land. All I could do was lay down and watch the waves of sea and land move above me as I stared in bewilderment. I didn't drown, though, so I guess that's good.

November 7, 2012

late or right on time?

Last week my husband and I closed on refinancing our home, which is such a relief for us. A nice perk was having the notary come to us with the paperwork, which saved us some time and stress.

The most interesting part of the closing, however, was the notary who helped us. She was a tall, beautiful woman, dressed professionally, who was originally from eastern Europe. When she first walked in, she noticed my son’s play equipment and commented on them. So I told her a bit about him and his age. She mentioned that she, too, has a son who’s about 16 months old and mentioned more than once that he came late – late in her life, I presumed. She remarked that she hopes he remembers her as a young-looking woman. 

During our time that afternoon, I discovered that she had been married for 18 years and that their first (and only) child was born when she was 43: the same age as me, with a similar home setting. I knew she must have an interesting story, as I’m sure every woman who begins motherhood later in life does. But I didn’t ask for details since it’s really none of my business.

We later-in-life moms really are part of a growing demographic.

I was somewhat fascinated at our common life thread nonetheless. When she mentioned for the second time that her son came late, I smiled and said “I’d say he was right on time.” After all, who am I to say whether someone is a latecomer or early bird? If I had conceived and given birth at any other time, in any other month, I would not have the son I have now but a different child. That’s just biological fact. And, I do believe that God has purposed my son to arrive exactly when he has, and that He does not make mistakes or simply work around mine.

It reminds me of Esther’s uncle when he told her that it was very possible her circumstances as the new bride of a powerful king were no accident. Esther 4:14 NIV “… And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

November 2, 2012

stressing out, stressing in

It was early Wednesday morning, before the sun was up. I was walking out the door, taking Sean to daycare, and realized I forgot his bag of bottles and such. I went back in to grab them and headed for the car. I got him buckled in his car seat and realized I didn’t have the security scan cards to check him in. I’d stuck them in my clothing the day before, and I could not remember what I was wearing the day before. It took me about three minutes to remember, and by that time I had burst into tears. I got out, locked the car with my son securely in it, stormed back into the house to get the cards, and took off. I still had to stop for gas and the grocery store, so I was late. Again. Like every day, except Thursdays when I work from home – and even then, it’s a struggle to start my day on time.

I’ve been telling people lately that my mind is a shower drain, and it’s really true. Only the really hairy things stick around – everything else seems to drain away.

My mind has been like that a lot for several months now, and it’s just getting worse. I can’t focus at work, I forget things at home, I’m constantly scrambling just to get out the door in the morning no matter how much I prepare the night before. It’s awful, and I feel like I have absolutely no control over my mind, let alone my life. Most of my women friends are either too busy for me to bend their ears or they don’t work outside the home so they couldn’t relate even if they had the time. Who isn’t insanely busy these days? Some kind of shrug their shoulders and don’t know what to tell me besides something to the effect of Welcome to Working Parenthood. True, but not helpful. My prayer life has also suffered tremendously.

So I have decided to pay someone to help me figure out how to live – my trusted therapist from my days of infertility-induced depression.

I’m under a lot of stress, as I’ve noticed lately. Between insomnia, fractionating brain rhythms, and snapping in half when I forget what I’ve worn, it’s time to surrender to the fact that my old methods of combating stress are woefully inadequate in my new life, and find a practical solution that fits who I am now.

If I learn things that I think could help others struggling with new levels of stress, I will definitely post them.