Better be

Whenever I get a little bit loose with my manners karma has a way of reining me in. A few weeks ago I fell down a couple of stairs and didn’t get something I really wanted, and that’s when I knew, I had to pause and reset. When I say reset, I basically mean that I have to try to be a better person. Andrew gave me a high-five at this declaration and I told him that the universe also rewards the intention to be good. Sometimes the both of us get down with our judgemental selves and he nodded “yes,” because refinement of self is an art that we try to take part in.

Personally, I like my karma straight up and all at once. Like, if it’s coming just make it into a stick and give it a gentle wack. I’ve accepted it as part of my existence and these little reminders make complete sense upon reflection. When I was near the end of my undergrad studies and working in a hellish restaurant, I sliced my finger open one particularly busy day. Standing over the sink with the tap on full blast, I honestly thought I had never felt to so miserable in my life. Then, the thought occurred to me that this was probably my karma for being mean to my grandparents or something. So, I got a band-aid and got on with the rest of my day. I also vowed to not be so flippant and it’s a part of my nature that I try to monitor and check. There you go.

My project to be better is not as abstract as you would think and it’s twofold. One, words matter so I work on not being so reactionary and saying things I usually regret. Secondly, I work on my thoughts and try to keep them on a higher plane. I feel that it is so much more productive to expect the best outcomes before you get the answer because I personally find pessimism to be so toxic. I don’t see the point of worrying about problems and setbacks until I’m in the middle of trying to solve them. We live in society and not a vacuum so frustrations will ultimately test your resolve to roll with the punches. Though I don’t always succeed, taking part in the challenge makes me feel like I’m trying to whittle away at my faults.

I personally find these checks and balances to be helpful. It’s comforting to me to know that bad things don’t happen to me because I am a bad person. Rather, unfortunate circumstances are opportunities to work off wrongdoings from the past and try to prevent further failings in the future. As I gained more life experience and have had the chance to mature, I’ve come to terms with the fact that being an adult means that you often have to do things that you do not want to. Participating in life as a mature individual means that you have to be gracious and understand the concept of duty while still not losing your own beliefs in the process. I now understand that there are individuals I would be fine with seeing once a year for twenty minutes tops, but, they are part and parcel of my life’s choices. Everyone understands that you can’t just quit your job because you don’t like one or two of your co-workers. That’s why it’s perfectly acceptable to take your commitment to being professional and cordial in your workplace to other aspects of your life. It is so refreshing to know that you don’t have to be best friends with everyone and they don’t have to be best friends with you.

Are these types of tension-filled relationships salvageable? I used to think so but I’m not so sure anymore. I believe that over time, continued hurtful behaviour towards someone, whether the individual is aware of the consequences or not, changes a dynamic. Most humans will begin to shut down and close themselves off from these triggers and circumvent any further damage by being hands-off. In the past, I thought that this form of coldness was a shame but I now believe that it can be the most healthy remedy for dysfunctional relationships. The best part of being born is that you enter the world able to connect with so many others. A part of that too is that there will be loads of people who become sources of friction and resentment. But that’s not say that you can’t be civil and co-exist. I’m pretty sure that’s what an adult would do. Now, in your downtime, be with people who bring you light.

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Good Mother

Though I am absolutely certain that I do not want to have any more children, there are babies in my life again. A couple of our friends are expecting or recently welcomed newborns so I am back in the baby state of mind. Of course I squeal when I see their little peanut bodies and they look up at me with their moon-shaped faces; my body has a 20% desire to have one but my mind says “no.” There are several reasons for this resolution, ranging from wanting to figure out my career to just being so exhausted some days from raising two extroverted children that the fact that I never have to give birth, sleep train or nurse again is what gets me through the day. Also, the four of us fit perfectly across an airplane aisle. For two people who love to travel I feel like that’s a sign from the universe that the number of family members in our little group is complete. The Smiths are complete.

All this baby talk, excitement to meet my friends’ kids and shopping for baby clothes has me reflecting on when I started out as a new mother. Luckily I had two tries at this thing called motherhood and if I can say so myself, I’m owning it with T. From the beginning I was prepared for T, from having my hospital suitcase packed a month in advance to reading the books and actually following through with the sleep training, I am confident in my role in his life. I truly believe that because of this relative calm and security, T’s nature has maintained the sweet and jubilant facets that he was born with. Let’s just say that he has always been easy. C on the other hand, the poor kid, got the “scared” mommy version; he started his life with someone who second-guessed many things and was just petrified of not being perfect. For what it’s worth, I feel like since the age of two or so I’ve made up for it with him. From the beginning, nothing has ever been easy with C but he is truly one of the most interesting people I know. His lust for life inspires me. His kindness astounds me. In spite of any struggles I had with adjusting to motherhood, C turned out to be a bright, beautiful and wonderful kid.  Seeing his trajectory made me just calm the eff down with T. Calming the eff down makes the experience of being a mother infinitely better, trust, for everyone involved.

Related to the discussion of what it’s like to be a new mother, I liken it to baptism by fire. There is a reason that people shower you with gifts and adoration beforehand: you are not ready and will never be ready for how your life is going to change. I recently read a beautiful piece by Bryce Dallas Howard on GOOP, found here and she likened her experience with postpartum depression to a sense of heaviness. It really spoke to me, not only because she honestly articulates its impact on her identity and family, but also because I too felt this heaviness that I would not measure up to being a “good” mother. I did not have postpartum depression but let’s just say that all of us mothers walk that line. I felt paralyzed that I could not provide what C needed, from breast feeding and ensuring that he received enough sustanance to how to hold him properly. I was scared shitless and as a result I withdrew. It’s a pretty shitty feeling to withdraw from your baby, especially when I have never loved someone as much as I love him.

To be honest, with those difficult lessons what saved me was work. Because I returned to my role as a graduate assistant four months after his birth I was forced to function. My mind was not nearly as clear or as sharp till C was a little over a year, but yes, all of those theories and theorists allowed me to claw my way out. That is why I have such a high regard for work. When I reflect on it now I realize the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive people. My husband knew that I was struggling but he never judged and just quietly took on a more active role. My mother and Aunt W constantly reassured me and said that they could see all of my efforts reflected in how C was growing and thriving. But life is not like that wholesome family drama where everyone in your corner should be there and of course I also interacted with individuals who probably made my recovery a little bit harder.

T was born on a sunny August morning and he was right on time. He joined a family and the existing three individuals of this unit were so happy to meet him. He just fit. A few months before he was born I sold all of C’s 0-6 months clothes. I sold every article of clothing that reminded me of that difficult period of adjustment and the gifts from individuals who only added to the worries. Is that petty? I’m not sure but that was my way of letting go. I hope that any new mothers who are struggling with the baby blues lean into their support networks. Thank you to those giving the understanding love to these mothers without judgement. Even in times of weakness they are not weak. Ladies, do what you need to do, and above all, you’ve got this.