Acting the Part

There are many things I find difficult about writing a blog. Sometimes it is the discipline it takes to find the time to write. Other times it is the guilt I have for not writing. Most often it is the naked-in-public feeling I get after I hit publish on a truly honest post. Paul will often say “Do you have to share everything?” when I ask him to proofread a piece. But the truth is, I feel like I do need to share most things. For me writing has always been about connection and if I’m only willing to share my publicly acceptable feelings then I start to wonder how much connection I am really fostering.

I read this quote from a Brene Brown post a few days ago:

When our lives become pageants, we become actors. When we become actors, we sacrifice authenticity. Without authenticity, we can’t cultivate love and connection. Without love and connection, we have nothing.

I am so guilty of this. Of wanting social media to only capture the highlights of my life. Of becoming an actor in a pageant.

The other day I posted a cute photo announcing our family’s upcoming move to a new international school next school year. It was great to hear all the positive comments and congratulations from friends near and far.

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(an outtake)

But that photo didn’t capture the weeks of angst that came before it. The disagreements, the bargaining, the standoff, the anxiety, the daily highs and lows of going through a recruiting process. The photo didn’t capture the nervousness we felt about telling our families that our plans had changed. That photo couldn’t capture the mourning we had for the imaginary Bainbridge life we had created.

Photos can be selected, enhanced, cropped and filtered. 140 character tweets can’t possibly tell the whole story. Three line status updates are only the tip of the iceberg.

We owe it to ourselves and to others to share the whole story from time to time. The crying children, the silent spouse, and the unflattering photos. Those are the things that bring us together even more than just the glossy highlights.

We have six more months in India. We have a few amazing experiences left. We have many more aggravating ones. Here’s to hoping I will brave enough to share it all.

It all made sense. And then it didn’t. But maybe it does.

We’ve spent the better part of the school year grappling with our decision not to return to this school next year. Our time here has been phenomenal-both professionally and personally-but it is time to move on. When our day to day life no longer aligns with the vision we have for our family it is time to make a change. And that’s where we found ourself in late August. And we made a change.

We debated continuing teaching internationally, but what at one point had felt meaningful and in line with our bigger vision, just didn’t seem to fit the same way. We were craving home. Of course, we were dreaming of our romanticized version of home-foggy mornings, warm coffee, hiking in the woods, and trips to the farmers’ market-and over time that vision slipped away and was replaced by my worst memories of living back in the States-commuting, commercialism, and uninspiring education. My processing only came in extremes. And it was exhausting.

In November I traveled to a beautiful school for professional development. The facilities, the faculty, the city all seemed amazing. The families that were there shared their stories and all sounded incredibly happy with family life. And it became my shiny penny. 

Somehow over the last few weeks I became focused on a specific place rather than a specific vision for our family. And that’s a mistake. There is not a place that can make us into the people and family we want to be. That comes from us-from the time, effort, and intention we put it into the decisions (both large and small) that we make.

For our family, we value travel, outdoor adventures, educating ourselves both formally (in school) and informally (through life experiences), playing games and eating dinner together on a regular basis, and cultivating traditions of family and faith.

These things are geographically independent. If they are our priorities we can make them happen in a variety of settings and I don’t need to (nor should I) get overly focused on a place. I need to be open to the settings before us and mindful of the ways we can strive to be the best version our family in any situation.

And perhaps that’s the lesson that wrapped up in all these difficult months. At first it made sense. And then it didn’t. But now? Maybe it does.

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Radio Silence

Radio Silence.

That’s where I am right now with my writing. The last two weeks have been ranked up there with nothing other than pure insanity. Paul and I both passing the children back and forth so that we can attend to professional responsibilities. We may share a few passing words about kid pick up in the morning and cap off the evening with a quick run down of tomorrow’s schedule, but there’s been very little beyond that. We’re in survival mode.

And then I think “I didn’t sign up for survival mode”. This isn’t what I wanted.

And so it goes from time to time. Our time to time has been the last 24 months as Paul worked on his Masters degree. And that’s a long time to time to sustain.

We’re coming up on the end. Three more weeks and the program will be over. We’ll be home celebrating Christmas on Bainbridge and there will just a vacuum left behind in our once completely, but necessarily overcommitted lives.

And we need to consider what it is that we are going to fill our lives back up with because certainly, without intention, something will inevitably take that space.

There’s the big dreams of Airstream trailers and camping by the sea. The bonfires and cozy evenings with mugs of warm cider. Reading by the fireplace.

But that’s not reality for us most of the time.

Our reality is loud Yahtzee games, family swims, a trip or two to sightsee all the local Mumbai places we have yet to brave. It’s a quick stop at Starbucks and pasta dinners on Sundays.

It’s not Instagram worthy, but it is the balm for our weary souls. The ones who want to crawl under the covers and watch the children raise themselves on breakfast crumbs and iPads. We need it. We need this vacuum of time.

Whatever it is. However it looks. We need more of it.

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Disappointment

Your children, no matter how amazing and loved, will disappoint you. You will be going along feeling like you’re doing a half -way decent job and then without warning something will change. And you will suddenly see that all the perfection you’ve done your best to craft is just an illusion of the truth. It will happen and it is better to know it from the get go.

You can feed your children all homemade organic baby food, breastfeed them, and cloth diaper them.

But they will still disappoint you.

You can find the best Montessori-Reggio-Waldorf hybrid preschool in the world, let them play with only wooden toys, and read to them every single night.

But they will still disappoint you.

You can enroll them in the perfect balance of after school activities, give them just the right amount of screen time daily, and ensure they are completing their homework every night.

But they will still disappoint you.

The strangest thing about parenting a new adolescent is the very real daily reminders that they are, in fact, their own people. You can give them guidance, support, and a do your best to help them forge a path, but in the end, it is on them to find their way. And suddenly the things you once cared so much about are less important than ever before because they were more about creating an appearance than creating a person.

And as parents we are in the business of creating people.

People who will, from time to time, disappoint you.

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Sorry Not Sorry

She chatters incessantly at bedtime. Lately the 45 minute routine has been driving me crazy. She always has just one more thing to tell me. Or one more question. Or needs one more check that her teeth are super clean. After 15 minutes I go into shut down mode. A better parent wouldn’t let her run the show this way. Every other four year old in the world goes to sleep without half as much fuss. I’ll never get the quiet time I need.

Tonight Paul was out for a bit, the other kids were busy reading, and I was just plain tired so I laid in bed with her. You can either view this as lazy parenting or amazingly empathetic parenting. It could really go either way.

And l let her prattle on.

And on.

And on.

In that time she determined every number that rhymes with a million is even bigger than the preceding number. She once saw a man with a hangy thing on his ear lobe. She has 4 names picked out for our yet to be adopted puppies. The super cutest names ever. Kay, Colorful Rainbow, Heart, and Rosie. And Noah’s her favorite brother.

And as she went on talking herself in circles, my mind began to drift. I noticed that she never once apologized.

She never apologized for dominating the conversation.

Or for being oversensitive.

Or for being arrogant.

She never became self-concious that what she was saying might be silly.

Or boring.

She never apologized for being herself.

She never apologized for apologizing.

And there it was.

When I stopped to listen I heard the truth.

And then wondered how she can possibly hold so much wisdom in her tiny little body.

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Hello Monday

Inspired by Lisa, Hello Monday is where I greet the new week with an open heart and a fresh perspective. It’s a new beginning–and there’s so much to be thankful for!

Hello to a new week of training. I was so inspired by my friends who ran the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend. I’m ready to tackle the Yukon Do It Half in late December. I’ve never been one to run a race with a time goal, but I’m starting to think I need to kick it up a notch so that I not only complete the race, but also improve on my time.

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Hello to a new schedule. Inspired by Michael Hyatt’s post on Margin, I’m working on creating my Ideal Week and sticking to it. Which is kind of difficult with 4 other people to consider, but definitely worth the attempt.

Hello to appreciating my time in India. It was so great to be downtown last week enjoying Diwali with friends. I am especially grateful for the fresh perspective it gave me on the beauty of Mumbai.

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Hello to intentional mornings. I listened to Kat Lee’s podcast over the weekend and I was encouraged by the structure of her mornings.

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Hello to finishing up some books. I’m almost done with If I Stay and I have plenty of other books queued up (like this, and this, and this). Time to make time to read in bed withOUT falling asleep.

Hello to my only full work week sandwiched between two shorter weeks. That’s something to celebrate!

The Struggle is Real

For as long as I can remember I would get a daily creeping sensation late in the afternoon. It was almost like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. More often than not by four o’clock it seemed the entire world was talking like Peppermint Patty’s teacher.

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And I really hated it. I would try my best to relax and be good-natured. But it was hard.

It only got harder when I became a mother. When the kids were little babies, it wasn’t too bad. The rocking and nursing sort melted them into me and it didn’t drain me the way it would later on. As toddlers, the never ending stream of questions and demands stretched me and the late afternoon skin crawl returned. Except the only name I had for that feeling was “sub par mother”. If I was a good mother I would be able to sustain my happy-automatic-snack-dispensing-camp-counselor disposition all day long. I wouldn’t grit my teeth when he asked for just one more story at 7:30 at night or when she needed to wander the house and brush her teeth for a full 15 minutes before bed. But I did grit my teeth and snap at the kids, or more likely, Paul. The evenings were like sipping a bottomless cup of exasperation. The guilt came knocking after everyone fell asleep. After a half hour of uninterrupted quiet I would feel the peace return.

But I’m a slow learner and I didn’t put it all together until this weekend.

When I returned from my two day staycation I felt relaxed and patient. The mess and chaos didn’t bother me the way it usually does. The late afternoon creepy crawl didn’t emerge. I felt like the best version of myself. In short, my batteries were at 100%.

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Yesterday, after a full day of mothering (with a few extra kids at the pool thrown in for good measure) I was running on empty by 4:00. Emp-ty. Paul’s having a full out relationship with his computer these days as he’s wrapping up his Masters program and his constantly managing a flood of deadlines and projects, but I needed him. Through gritted teeth needed him. I needed him to take Stella out to the playground and give me 30 minutes of silence. It sounded indulgent and selfish to ask him to do that when he’d be working all day, but I knew that I wouldn’t peacefully manage until bedtime without it. Thankfully, he understood and took the kids outside for a little bit.

I inhaled the silence and exhaled the demands of the day. For 30 glorious minutes. And then they returned. The noisy, laughing, mess called my family returned. But I was ready for them. I got through dinner, baths, stories, and games without gritting my teeth once.

I told Paul that I felt selfish asking for a bit of time on a daily basis to recharge, but he kindly reminded me that it isn’t selfish and even if it was, it is better than the alternative (that would be the crazed short and snapping Mama alternative). And he’s right. I’m only human (that was such a good song) and if I need a bit of silence on a daily basis to remain a patient and peaceful mom then I need to ask for it.

I often get up early to write and bank some “me” time before the kids are up. Often it backfires.bIronically enough, as I’ve tried to write this post, Stella’s been up painting, sticking, cutting, asking for cereal, and whining already. There’ve 42 questions about the colors of the rainbow, how to spell Mumbai, how people share germs and disputes about water colors with Sophie. It’s 6:42 am.

My gym bag is packed and I’ve got 5 miles on the training schedule. I’m hoping that will carry me through the rest of the day.

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