I’m still here.
I’ve been in a moving funk. In fact, I realized as I started writing that I wrote a very similar post right around this length of time after my move to New York. Restarting life with two toddlers is just plain stressful.
But a few days ago, I was walking clumsily to the playground–a giant iced cafe Americano in one hand (espresso is a requirement alongside my early-risers these days), Kate wiggling relentlessly in my opposite arm, diaper bag sliding off my shoulder, Cam wearing on my patience for not keeping up (you know, because he needed to examine/attempt to sit on some kind of wooden post he’d discovered along the sidewalk)– and we approached two middle aged women who were strolling leisurely toward us. They were walking their dog and Kate absolutely had to pet it.
One of the women told me she’d been admiring me and thinking what a wonderful life I was living, gliding along with two beautiful babies and an icy Starbucks on such a nice morning.
And it made me think. Here was a lady whom I assumed was retired, leisurely strolling with her friend and her dog along the water, probably going to bask in the warm sun and chat or read a good book. And she was admiring my life. My stressful, messy, responsibility-packed life with toddlers.
And I thought, you know what? I need to stop and admire my life more often.
When I’m stressed, I’m 100% guilty of searching for someone or something to blame for my unhappiness. Lately and in a nutshell, it’s looked something like this:
Mike’s hours are way too flipping long. I’m so tired of moving. I hate starting my life from scratch over and over again like this. I’m lonely. It’s so hard to build a network here. I can never keep my head above water with these kids. I can’t do this by myself. When will our life just be normal? I’m in the last year of my 20s and I don’t have a career. Or a plan. I really want…well, I don’t know. I really want….something. I just don’t know what it is. I just want.
My stressing and worrying has been consuming me. I’ve called Molly and vented to her constantly. I vented to my parents when they came to visit. I’ve taken it out on Mike. I’ve had a short temper with Cam and Kate. I’ve been consumed with myself!
Aren’t those funks exhausting? When nothing can satisfy you? I’ll be happy when…fill in the blank. And either that blank never comes or, if it does, another fill-in-the-blank takes its place. It’s such a sabotaging frame of mind.
Luckily, I dropped my phone in Puget Sound a few weeks ago and it gave me a little push to take control. I was doing a stand up paddle board yoga Father’s Day session with Mike. And if you follow me on Instagram, you know I couldn’t possibly do something as cool as that without snapping a shot of him paddling or yoga-ing on the water against a backdrop of the Olympics. And as I went to snap that shot, I fumbled. And the scene went into slow motion, as if I were watching my life flash before my eyes.
In those few days of not having a phone, not having anyone to call, not being able to snap pictures of my daily moments and epiphanies, I realized a few things.
I realized I rely way too much on my phone to distract me from myself. Amidst immediately tending to my very dependent and often volatile toddler lovies, (and when my phone isn’t dead because I’ve once again forgotten to charge it), I’m calling or texting or picture-taking, or browsing, or emailing.
And without those things, life is pretty amazing, But it’s a little scary, too.
Staying constantly busy exploring with my babes and connected through my phone are awesome ways to distract myself and keep me superficially happy, but I realized I need more than that–something deeper.
To digress a bit, a few months ago I started a book called the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that an NYC friend recommended to me. And the author emphasized the importance of taking oneself on a weekly artist’s date–a date to go on alone, doing something that is fun, adult fun. Something that’s purely for enjoyment. And she mentioned how it’s almost inevitable that you’ll tell yourself you don’t have time, or that you’ll use it to meet with a friend or bring someone along. It’s amazing how terrified we can be of ourselves and our thoughts.
I still haven’t finished the book, but ironically my new (and totally awesome) Seattle friend read it. And she said how amazing the artist’s date has been for her life as a mother.
So anyway, to get back on track, I started thinking about that artist’s date. And I liked it, but I just felt like it wasn’t going to fully be the answer to my frustrations. I’m a very (probably too much) fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person, and I wanted something guided, structured, consistent to get me back into the swing of things. I thought yoga would be the perfect start.
I’ve done yoga lessons here and there, but usually it’s been fitness related and I’ve never stuck with it. I know I’ve mentioned before that Mike does mindfulness meditation and absolutely swears by it, so I thought yoga would be something along those lines.
And let me tell you, even if you’ve done it before and decided it wasn’t for you, do a little research, find a good clinic or teacher or dvd and do it again anyway. And stick with it.
It’s done wonders for my attitude. It’s probably a combination of the hour and a half I get to myself a few times a week and the peace that comes with meditation alongside pushing my flexibility and strength to new limits, but the change I’ve noticed in my attitude over just the past week and a half has been incredible.
My teacher really emphasizes the meditation aspect of not letting our minds become lazy, drifting off to whatever thoughts and obsessions they desire. If we’re able to be in control of our minds, to acknowledge the thoughts and emotions we let ourselves obsess over without becoming attached to or defined by them, to focus on our breath, prana, the life and vitality of spirit, we’re much more at peace.
And how awesome would it be to be able to detach ourselves from those exhausting emotions more often? To be more present? To find that balance in our lives we’re constantly searching for? It’s a challenging feat, but so rewarding.
So it’s something I’m definitely going to push myself to stick with. Because finding balance allows us much more space to focus on the amazing parts of life, to get beyond ourselves.
And you know, I have an abundance to be grateful for. I love photography. I’ve realized it’s allowed me to look back at my daily moments with my family and appreciate them, to find gratitude for them. It’s also a very satisfying creative outlet for me. I love experimenting with light and angles; I love editing, I love sharing. And social media has been an awesome medium for that. But something I started to realize when I lost my phone and wasn’t able to share my moments was how much I enjoyed living life without the “like” button.
Again, I love that Facebook and Instagram provide a medium to share our lives and our journeys, but that button can really bring out our insecurities, can’t it? Just being aware of that has been a good thing for me. It’s awesome to keep our friends and relatives updated and show the world what we’re grateful for in our lives or maybe just feel connected on days when we’re lonely, or display work we’re proud of or words that have resonated with us in hopes that they’ll resonate with others, too. But sometimes it stings when we don’t get the kind of feedback we’re hoping for. Because when we share parts of our lives and our thoughts, we’re making ourselves vulnerable. Would we post and share if we didn’t want feedback? I think recognizing that vulnerability and want for others to like the things we post (things that are essentially us) can help us step back and appreciate those things ourselves.
Often when I’m feeling down, I’ve looked through the the pictures I’ve taken and thought, man, my online life looks like I’d never have anything to stress about; I do have so much to be grateful for.
But if our lives were really just the highlights, the picture streams of our timelines, we would be bored and static and never learning and never growing. Stress definitely feels real and suffocating and without end when we’re in the eye of it, but I think we need tough situations in our lives to grow and become better versions of us. We need to learn how we can better respond. Has anyone ever truly grown when she wasn’t challenged?
So I would love if you would join me in the challenge of striking a healthy balance in your life. Let’s appreciate the awesome and work on responding better to the not so awesome. And if you already have special tips you’d like to share about how you keep your balance, I would LOVE to know them.
I’ll post soon (promise) with some pictures and updates about our move. Hope you’re having a fabulous 4th of July weekend!