I have been on the receiving end of some sage advice the past few weeks, primarily from the girls in my life, but my husband is a thoughtful guy and likes to catch me off guard with insight into myself.
Here have been a few of my favorites. Some paraphrased but original intent preserved.
"Don't forget who wears the big girl pants" -Abie Livesay
(during a text conversation about a stand off I was having with Purslane)
"I can always count on you to blow up my Instagram feed with pictures of your cute kids and yummy food. Seriously, you are all over Instagram these days." -Amanda Parks
(as I was sheepishly admitting that IG just might have taken the place of my neglected FB account)
"You are a grown ass woman. You can handle those eyes." Sarah Binkele
(my best friend of 22 years who gets my shameful confessions of browsing FB pages of old boyfriends)
"You have been reading books about everything except God. How do you expect to take care of yourself spiritually if you aren't doing anything about it?" -Husband
(as I was expressing my feelings of self deprecating loathing after a long day where I snapped at the kids more than once)
"Oh God, thank you for love and hamburgers and place mats and those things we clip our fingernails with. Amen" -Pursy
(I want to write down every prayer she says. So pure and honest and sincere. And grateful)
Last week I got a call from my friend Chrissie asking me how I was and if I was alright. She used the phrase "off the grid" to explain why she was chasing me a little bit. As I listened to her message I realized that I hadn't posted a blog or Instagrammed a photo or otherwise published something about my life in a few days. For someone who, as my friend Amanda pointed out, tends toward excess with new delightful technology, I had gone rather dark.
Everything in my life seems to be pointing to the fact that social media and public living is bad for me. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to make people around me happy, and that manifested itself in many different ways when I hit adulthood. I could date anyone because I could be whoever they wanted. I got into theater and philosophy and baseball and yoga and kosher cooking and hiking and smoking and billiards and sundry other hobbies/interests because of boys I wanted to hang out with. I was a great girlfriend because I was into exactly what they were...none of them ever seemed to catch on that it was highly unlikely that we were perfectly compatible after two weeks of dating.
Fast forward 12 years and I still have that instinct to be acceptable. To be able to hang out with anyone still means that I can understand and participate in things that are important to them. Not that I can merely be supportive and interested, but I must actively engage. Now introduce Facebook and Instagram and the Blogosphere and you have a million ways in which I can feel the need to join in.
You have two young children and a husband and work and your blog is about the healthy and inventive food you cook every night? Uuuh, me too! Strong sexy body after childbirth in your mid thirties thanks to a pilates/yoga blend you make time for five mornings a week before your family wakes up? I'll join you. I love that dress and boots on your weekly style selfies pics. I only shop at Target and Goodwill and Modcloth but I will find the time to shop vintage. Thank you for all those articles you posted about current events that every human being should be informed about because we are human and live in this world together. I care about it, I really do. Or, I will care about it, right after I...never mind. Starting now.
There is so much to know about and spend time on and get better at and teach my children about and value and prioritize that most days I have to literally make myself stop in my tracks and decide what to do. Otherwise, I'm paralyzed.
It cannot be possible that so many things should take equal priority.
I love my children and am trying to be a good parent. That doesn't have to mean I take them to the natural history museum twice a week. Maybe the fact that I read them the pop up dinosaur book again instead of wrestle a screaming protesting Knox into his coat and spend the drive to the museum with sweat marks under my armpits while both babes sit in the back of the car thoroughly aware that I am stressed but dammit taking them to see the dinosaurs, maybe just reading that book means I love them.
Even if I just saw an IG pic of my friend with her THREE babes out at the science center. Maybe its not a competition.
I love Grant and want to be a great partner for him in every aspect, emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally. Sometimes that means I surprise him with new pretty things from Vicky's because my gym workouts have me feeling confident about being more sexual. I just read a blog post about the importance of keeping the magic going through these years of having young babes. But I haven't read anything lately about the magic of cracking a beer and sitting next to each other while we watch a Good Wife episode on Hulu. (But there's one now, so if you and your tired partner want another couple to sanction your exhausted end of the day television watching, cheers to you, you are fantastic)
My biggest fear with going off the social media/blogosphere grid is that I will become undeniably uncool. For better or worse (and some photos of me in junior high would suggest some serious worse) my mother didn't put much emphasis on fitting in or keeping up with fashion. She let us decide what we wanted to care about, so consequently I had a huge bookshelf and no pairs of properly fitting jeans. Thus, I have relied rather subconsciously on other people to tell me what I should like. Blogs are brilliant for this. My favorite is A Beautiful Mess, which is two sisters who literally can do everything. Food, clothes, home decor, cocktails, photography, DIY, small business ownership, travel, etc. The blog is beautifully done and unless they are putting on a good show, they are happy girls doing what they are gifted to do.
It is a dangerous place for someone like me who is a late bloomer in the world of personal confidence. I get easily addicted to the "love" button on IG, the more casual "like" on FB and adore comments on my blog. They are my virtual cool kids that let me sit with them at lunch. (Just an aside...I got really into hard boiled eggs in elementary school and every day for lunch my mom would pack two eggs and the fancy egg slicing tool. Being smoothly cool has never come naturally to me)
This blog post isn't about a defiant call for mothers to stop focusing on themselves and be content to expense yourself for the sake of the children. I am tremendously sad about the things I want to do/be/study/wear but just cannot because there are not enough hours in the day when you have young kids. Just know, I am a vintage dress and red lipstick wearing, Kierkegaard reading, perfectly seared scallop preparing, call me any time friend. Who happens to have made the choice to stay home with my kids during this season of life and just can't do everything. And my online life was making me feel like everyone had figured it out but me. Real or imagined, the feedback from strangers who have no idea I exist was making me feel sorry for myself. This is crazy.
The truth is, my life is glorious. We are a beautiful mess of a family who is far from perfect but trying really hard just to show up.
Becoming a parent is a wild thing. I just finished a book by Jennifer Senior called All Joy and No Fun, where she makes the argument that there is no way to prepare for the change in your life that happens when a child enters. The fact that there is now a person where there wasn't one before changes everything- how you think, where you go, how you do your daily life, what matters to you... and most of the time, what you wanted comes second. It doesn't last forever and as children grow the fun starts to come back, but in the early years there is loads of joy but very little fun. Your heart is full but your hands and feet are often tired and worn.
And in my weariest moments when I am full of self doubt and worry and frustration, the last thing I need is another recipe for handmade tomatillo salsa or tips on making a white board wall in my kitchen. I need to pick up the phone and call another Mama and get revived by the laughter on the other end of the phone. If going off the virtual grid gives me the chance to put on my big girl pants and make better choices about where I get my advice and who I allow to influence me, I will do it.
Even if it means I am not as cool as the other moms at the gym. Think Tina Fey and Amy Pohler in their leotards...