I’ve found myself doing a lot of complaining lately. A lot. About my overwhelming and ubiquitous list of to-dos.
I need to potty-train Cam.
I need to set up a grocery delivery service. We’re spending ungodly amounts of money on takeout and daily mini-trip to Whole Foods and the Hispanic grocery mart downstairs. (I’ve found a huge downside to not having a car–the inability to schlep the kids and a week or two’s worth of groceries home by foot.)
We need to get student health insurance nailed down. Long story short (and please excuse the fact that my following statement sounds ridiculously subjective), the Army really screwed us on this one. I won’t even get into the story, just trust me.
I need to find a way to hang all of our shelves and pictures that are still not up (after more than two months of living here) on our cement walls that cause nails to simply bend when hammering is attempted.
I need to finish Cam’s preschool applications (which are due a year in advance and require essays, tours, parent interviews, admissions’ observations of Cam’s interaction with their students, and financial aid applications for their average $10,000-a-year tuition–unjustifiable, don’t get me started).
I need to make time to build relationships with other women and moms in the city so I feel more connected in this crazy, stressful place.
I need a date with Mike. He’s so incredibly busy with school and studying and any time we’ve spent together has either been with the kids (which has still been few and far between and is typically stress-filled) or at business school functions. I miss him. I miss the not-stressed-out him. Like crazy. And I miss the not-stressed-out me. I often daydream of a leisurely picnic date with champagne under a tree in the park, or a second honeymoon on an exotic island. It’s been months since we’ve had a real date, just the two of us. Sigh. Maybe someday.
I need to do the ridiculous amount of laundry that collects (crazy quickly) because we don’t have a washer or dryer in our apartment. How is one supposed to lug (at least) four loads of laundry and two babies to our building’s basement at the same time?
I need to post on my blog more frequently.
We need to buy storage pieces for the mountains of clothes stacked and strewn about our bedroom thanks to our next-to-zero closet space.
I need to autumn- and winter-ize the kids’ wardrobes. Where are all if the consignment stores in this city?!
I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but you get the point. all of those things on top of the daily breakfast-, lunch-, and dinner-
ordering making, baby-feeding; diaper changing; nap-forcing; house-cleaning (which is sustained for all of two minutes); dish-doing; kid-engaging; keep-cam-from-pummeling-Kate-ing, etc.–can wear a girl out. It starts feeling like I’m in the eye of a tornado.
And although I originally created this blog to act as my catharsis, I’ve been thinking, Kendra, you don’t have time to write for pleasure. Besides, your readers don’t want to know about the mundane stresses in your life. They want something entertaining. They want to read about New York!
But, in actuality, I received more traffic and engagement from my simple poop-text post than from any other post I’ve written. I’ve concluded that you want what’s real. And I want to write about what’s real (without airing too much of our dirty laundry. Or, ironically, our clean laundry that we finally broke down and paid to have picked up, washed, dried, folded and delivered. Don’t judge.)
And although I know there are super moms out there who can look calmly at the to-do list and consistently chip away at it a little at a time, I’m the kind of mom that gets super stressed, stuffs it all into a little compartment in my head, sticks a cork in it, and takes the kids to the park to escape instead. And then has an explosive, meltdown, crying session to her husband as the bottling becomes too much to handle.
I think, how on earth did we believe we could make it in this city with two very dependent children during business school–a time when even single people (who comprise the vast majority of the student population) struggle to stay on top of things? But why can’t I handle this? I should be able to do this. I’m used to moving (we’ve done it seven times in the past six years). I’ve dealt with Mike being deployed for months at a time; I should definitely be able to handle his being so busy and distracted now.
Then again, we’ve never had two babies on top of a move. And we’re finding that both of us being incredibly stressed is extremely tough on a relationship. I start feeling like Mike would rather be at school than here and he starts feeling like nothing he does is ever enough. We both feel like the other isn’t being supportive enough. There just ends up being a disconnect that adds even another element of stress to our already stress-filled lives.
Even Cam can sense it I think. Last weekend he woke up early and upset from his nap and and came running out of his room crying. I asked him if he needed a hug, to which he replied, “No!” A kiss? “No.” Your blankie? “No.” Do you want me to hold you? “No.” And then he looked at Mike. “Daddy hold Momma.” It’s interesting how intuitive kids can be.
So we’re working hard on communicating effectively. And on being present when we’re with each other. Because as hard as it is to be present when a million other stressors are distracting us, it’s so incredibly important in making one another feel appreciated.
And I really need to start following in Mike’s footsteps and doing mindfulness
levitation meditation in the mornings.
He’s awesome at not dwelling on things and just finding ways to solve the problem–(I actually get crazy frustrated about it when he tries to do the same for me–sometimes, a girl just needs to vent, right?). I, on the other hand, am better at just complaining about my problems.
I’ll be better at solving them, I tell myself, when Kate starts sleeping through the night. No, she’s still not sleeping through the night (a problem in and of itself). I can’t even remember the last time I got more than a three-hour stretch of sleep in a row. I wonder sometimes if there will ever come a time when my head no longer feels foggy all day long. (Seasoned mothers, please give me some hope!) Ah, another thing to daydream about.
So, as you can tell, I’ve been doing way too much complaining and feeling sorry for myself. And having realized it, I’ve started to feel super guilty. Are you kidding, me?! I’m living in New York City without a job! No one has this opportunity!
So as I opened my inbox a few weeks ago, I noticed a routine email from ONE–a non profit organization that works to fight global poverty, specifically in Africa. I’m on their list-serve and have been a member for years, but have never really actively participated. So having the guilty conscience I just told you about, I opened the email, hoping to get involved somehow.
It suggested I apply to help support them during the Social Good Summit, going on in NYC during United Nations Week. I had to write a simple essay stating why I should be selected. Well, I clumsily typed with my left hand while whisking Kate off the floor just in time to save her from getting clobbered by Cam as he yelled “horsie!” and ran to jump on her back.
I got an email the following day credentialing me access to the summit and its digital media lounge, a room specifically set up for press and bloggers to use during the conference. I really had no clue what to expect, but figured it would give me a chance to hear some amazing speakers, meet some cool people, and get outside myself and my own problems.
The message behind the conference was that, with such immediate access to the technology we all have, it’s time to start a global conversation to address the world’s issues. Why not if we’re so able to?
After posting my excitement about the conference to Facebook, Libby Hoppe, a high school friend and managing editor at Collinson Media and Events, asked if I’d be interested in doing some freelance work and profiling the summit for one of her publications. It ended up being a perfect fit.
I was going to the conference anyway, plus it would give me a deadline to contribute to the global conversation that was so encouraged there. Although the money I’d make from freelancing would probably end up being a wash after paying for a babysitter for a few hours each day during the event, it would give me a chance to do something I love, justify getting out of the house by myself, and boost my resume. I’ll let you know when it’s published so you can take a peek at my article (if you’re interested of course). I’m an official freelancer! I’m heading to a social event tonight to do a site write-up for another of her publications. It’s really an awesome gig!
But back to the summit. A couple of things that were said there really stayed with me. The first was stated by Hillary Clinton as she addressed attendees via live video. “We’re living at a time where anyone can be a diplomat. All you have to do is hit send.” It’s so true, isn’t it? The Internet ha given each of us such a powerful opportunity to use our voice and truly be heard. It’s pretty amazing and incredibly empowering when you think about it.
Maria Bello, actress and activist, shed the second piece of brilliance that stuck with me. “We serve best by doing the thing we love most.” Also so incredibly true. Maybe you’re sharing your humor or lovely personality with those around you. Maybe you’re being the best mom you can possibly be. Maybe you’re writing and delivering a unique perspective to someone who needs to hear it. It was an enlightening thought to ponder. Check out this post from Mom-101 for more in-depth thoughts about Maria’s words.
I met a fellow ONE activist there–Mariama Petrolawicz, also president and cofounder of There is No Limit Foundation–who is a former runway model from Guinea. She used her passion for fashion to start empowering women from her home country by partnering with them to create unique fabrics–fabrics now being used for designer Tory Burch’s 2013 spring collection. How cool is that?
Even though starting my own nonprofit foundation is not something in my immediate life plans right now, I came out of the weekend feeling overwhelmingly grateful and inspired. Grateful for the opportunity to take in the words of such contributing members of our world and so inspired by all they’re doing. Although Nobel prize winners and celebrities and world leaders and CEOs and doctors consistently filled the stage, they made me feel like every single person on this earth has the ability to make an impact in some way, and that’s what it’s all about.
So in hopes of staying inspired and not complaining so much, I’m going to leave you with a post from my dear friend, Caitlin of Cait Finding the Fresh, about an awesome initiative from expert Shawn Achor about how to start changing the way we think. Check out Caitlin’s post about it, The Happiness Advantage. And check out this one she wrote about another happiness initiative started by our dear friend, Lea.
I want to be consistently grateful and present for all of life’s wonderful things, starting with what’s most important to me–my beautiful family. Cam just had his second birthday. My babies are growing up before my eyes and I need to be present to cherish these moments with them.
Will you join me in the challenge? How do you change your way of thinking when you’re overwhelmed?