Once upon a time, I tried to write “mommy updates” about every six months. I was interested in chronicling my evolving identity as a mother. Now I barely manage a blog post a month, so any regularity is out the window (though actually, if you count this adoption-related post from May as a “mommy update,” which it basically is, then I guess I am still hitting the six-month mark). But it’s my birthday, and what better celebration than to write about ME!
I don’t think I’ve had a lot of epiphanies about my own parenthood lately. The extroversion/introversion thing still kind of sums up my biggest struggle with parenting. Addison wants to talk 24 hours a day; I want at least 6-7 hours of silence every day. You do the math. On Wednesday, I left her in the car for about 30 seconds while I ran in for something. When I came back out she said earnestly, “You know, Mom, being alone is no fun at all.” I’m trying to sympathize, but it’s hard to understand when, clearly, being alone is like in the Top 5 best things EVER! My delightfully extroverted friend Victoria is my go-to source for a window into Addison’s psyche.
Speaking of Victoria, I could not adequately update you on the last several months of my life without her figuring into it prominently. See, she did this really crazy, wonderful thing, which was to fly me and Addison out to visit her house for a few weeks in June. And while I was there she got up with Addison (and her girls) every single morning so that I could sleep in and not get too worn out. And THEN, if that wasn’t crazy enough, in October she flew me up to our other grad school friend Emily’s house for a week, this time without Addison. Emily was about the most gracious hostess imaginable, letting us scatter our stuff all over, eat her food, and keep her up entirely too late talking. But oh, it was grand! I love these women and their generous hearts, which translate into truly generous actions!
I don’t think I realized how much I missed adult-only conversation with girlfriends until these two trips. I have made some good friends in the years since Addison was born, but in most instances, our interactions have been limited to times that there were also kids swirling around. Part of further understanding my own brand of introversion is recognizing that conversations with kids around, though enjoyable, usually don’t rise to the level of soul-feeding for me — partly because it’s hard to go in depth into some of the things I enjoy exploring (faith and doubt, women’s issues, identity, relationship dynamics) when you could get interrupted at any moment and partly because I am sensitive to environmental noise (which never stops when Addison’s around). (Sidenote: if you’re interested in introversion, read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Intriguing doesn’t even begin to express it!)
The topic of friendship has been on my mind a lot, actually. I felt I was a little slow to make new friends in our last location; I even started to wonder if somehow my ability to make friends had eroded over the years. I have known I was an introvert for a long time (reading Quiet actually made me realize how interconnected some of my most cherished personal traits are with my introversion), but at the same time, I have always had a number of deep friendships. And I still do, but most of those are long distance these days, and I was starting to worry that for some reason I had lost my edge in really connecting with people. Which is why the “girls’ week” I spent was such a godsend; I remembered that I can connect with people — some previous ability had not suddenly been lost. I just need to contemplate how best to meet my social needs in light of my physical limitations, work and parenting responsibilities, and new location. I need to determine my “personal social balance” and then act to make it happen. (I’ve taken your comment to heart, Alysa.)
Speaking of the new location, for all my excitement about creating our new life in the mountains and the spiritual promptings I received that this was the right place for us to be, it hasn’t been the smoothest transition for me. About the time Addison stopped telling us that she just couldn’t take it here and settled into life in the mountains (which corresponded with her making friends in the area — shocking, right?), I started moping around the house (or rather, in bed) saying I couldn’t take it here. The weather got chilly and with no heat in the house we were routinely going to sleep and waking up in 50 degree or lower temperatures. This triggered some Fibromyalgia flare-ups including one night of some of the most intense pain I’ve had in a couple of years. Not to mention the persistent don’t-leave-the-house-for-a-week, even-thinking-about-leaving-the-house-makes-me-want-to-cry fatigue. I am holding out hope that this is still fallout from the moving process, but I have begun to worry that the altitude and weather here are going to take a major toll on my health. Needless to say, this health situation has put a bit of a damper on achieving that personal social balance — it’s surprisingly hard to make new friends from bed. (I just need one of my preexisting friends to come live next door — come on, guys, who’s it gonna be?) On the flip side, it’s been great for my reading as I joined a Facebook-based book group and tackled Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (UH-MAZING! Read it. Like yesterday.), Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person (thought-provoking in teasing out different psychological traits), and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane (definitely sucked me in, which is saying something for a nonfiction reader like me).
The other thing that’s put a damper on my first couple months “on the mountain” has been financial stress. After taking a leap of faith to rent this house in July (which was a bit more expensive than what I initially wanted — $875/month vs. some other places we considered in the $600 range), weeks went by and I still only had one teaching contract for Fall semester. I was sweating it until late August when I received not only a second teaching contract but a “promotion” (I put it in quotes just for you, Neal) to a supervisor over other online instructors. Yet even with that small income boost, our monthly expenses still exceed our income, not to mention all the additional one-time costs of setting up a new house (did you know you needs pots? Like to cook anything at all. Annoying, right?). I’ve felt the stress of being the sole financial provider in a huge way, and it’s manifested itself in ways that I have not typically experienced — forgetfulness, confusion, lack of focus, spontaneous crying outbursts (I know, I know, I cry all the time, but that is almost always sympathetic crying — it’s like the difference between tearing up at a Hallmark commercial and tearfully hyperventilating over a meeting being rescheduled). This level of stress and the physical manifestations of it really caught me off guard.
Luckily, things are looking up! (Thank goodness, or this would be a real downer of a birthday post.) Our heater was fixed on Thursday and I’ve been mentally weighing the relative costs of heating the house vs. moving again — needless to say, I’m typing this in a balmy 65 degrees! I’m at the tail end of a cold and hoping that with no major trips planned in November (I also went to Idaho in the last couple of months for work), my fatigue will start to let up as well. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I have to sing Neal’s praises just a little bit because despite the fact that we worked out a pretty detailed schedule of when we would each care for Addison (8-3 Neal; 3-6 me; 6-7:30 together), I have complied with the schedule exactly 0 times in the last two and a half months . . . and he hasn’t even freaked out about the lack of routine. He’s been more sympathetic to and flexible with my inability (unwillingness, sometimes) to get out of bed than I ever would have expected, based on his total preoccupation with schedules. The mountains must agree with him. Hopefully, I’ll start to agree with them, too.