the good life… with a little more nothing

Gwen!It’s still hard for me to believe, but a few weeks ago this little monkey turned one. She also started walking, and now she’s in college, working on an ambitious Furniture Climbing degree with a minor in Bumping One’s Head On Things. It is ridiculous how fast kids grow up these days, no? If this one doesn’t land us in the ER at least once before she’s two, we’ll be very lucky. Her favorite things are shoes, a toy bus, and a dancing stuffed bunny. She will eat almost anything, although she’s not as fond of fruits (except avocados, those are a big A+). She is as jolly and giggly as she is hot-tempered and stubborn — I did not know babies could have mood swings, but Gwen makes sure to have several each day. She can say “kitty” and “Ella” and “ny-ny” and “kick kick”, and when she grins, her dimples are magnificent.

Ellie!And what about this little girl? Well, she’s very precocious and full of thoughts — so many thoughts! She tells us she’s getting a computer for her birthday (I have no idea who put this idea in her head) and that she’s going to marry her little sister someday (hey, works for us — we’ll only have to pay for one wedding, and we already approve of her future spouse!) Her favorite Halloween costumes, in no particular order: Rapunzel (from Tangled), a zombie (her sister would accompany her as a sunflower, a la Plants vs. Zombies), a bird. She has the facial expressions and vocabulary of a thirteen-year-old, but with all the sweetness of a three-year-old. She is afraid of trains (but only the sound they make — she loves riding them) and thinks having a little sister is awesome, except for the part where she has to share her toys, but only sometimes. She is my cuddlebug, and I think four is going to suit her well.

The much dorkier monkey in the photos above has had a busy couple of months. Tim and I had the pleasure of spending a week in San Diego with our co-workers at the beginning of September, which was awesome and worthy of its own post, if I could ever find the time to write it. I’ve never been in a situation where I loved my job so much that I had to remind myself to stop working… and that’s where having children keeps me grounded, since they have this thing where they need to be regularly fed and bathed and snuggled.

AutumnFor the last few weeks we’ve tried to get out and about as much as possible. There’s a certain sense of urgency that sets in about this time — winter is coming, enjoy this while it lasts. Normally I find autumn inspiring and invigorating, but I’ve had a difficult time getting into it this year. S.A.D. may be the culprit; I have to soothe that panicky little bird in the back of my mind that tells me the cold will never end, that we’ll all be sick and miserable and stuck in the house FOREVER!

In an effort to pick myself up a bit, I got back on the exercise bandwagon. Well, I didn’t quite fall off the bandwagon this summer, but I was definitely dragged behind it for a while. I’ve been taking 2-3 mile walks in the evenings, and I’ve just recently discovered Just Dance 4, which will keep me company when it gets too cold to go outside.

So, that’s my life in a nutshell. I work, I enjoy our family, and I carve out time for myself when I can. What I struggle with is finding peace in the chaos. There’s always one more CSS bug, one more runny nose to be wiped, one more load of laundry, one more trip to plan and pack for, one more project to start. “Just one more thing” turns into “ALL THE THINGS” and at the end of the day I am exhausted and yet, full of experiences and life. But I wish I knew how to live in the moment, just… being. I’ve never been good at that — I get impatient in the time it takes to pour myself a glass of water, for pete’s sake (because there are SO MANY THINGS I COULD BE DOING in those ten precious seconds, right? Who has time to pour water?!?). I take long walks because I have a destination in mind, with no focus on the journey. In the interests of keeping my sanity, I think I need to spend some more time on… nothing. Yeah, that’s exactly what I need. A little more nothing.

visualize whirled peas

I’m not much for resolutions, but I did make one promise this year.  One promise, and I think it’s the key to all the promises.

I promise to be nicer to myself.

I’m going to remember what it feels like to be comfortable in my own skin (not just in body, though that’s a big part, but in mind and spirit, too).  Because there was a time in my life where I was much more appreciative of my strengths, and less debilitated by my weaknesses.

Really, there was!  I swear!

See, I have what I like to call a case of the “shoulds”.  I’m pretty sure most of us have these, actually, to varying degrees.  But I think mine got out of control.

“I should go grocery shopping.”
“I should call my mum more often.”
“I should eat less and exercise more.”
“I should have gotten a better education.”
“I should be working at a better job.”
“I should take more photographs.”
“I should be more outgoing.”
“I should be more adventurous.”

I’ve piled all these expectations on myself – some of which are reasonable (“I should shower every day” – my co-workers probably appreciate this one, and I do, too!) and many of which are not so reasonable (“I should be perfect” – oh, c’mon, perfection can’t be that hard to achieve, right?).  So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that lately it seems I’m drowning in a lake of guilt – guilt for not calling friends, guilt for not eating well, guilt for parting my hair on the left instead of the right, guilt for not being smarter, thinner, prettier, more academic; you name it, I’ve probably felt guilty about it.

I’m going to point out the obvious here:  Too much guilt hurts.  Eventually you start feeling guilty for feeling guilty!  Which makes you feel even more guilty!  Shit!

Last summer I came to a point where I said to myself, “Self, you have everything your little heart could possibly desire.  You have a beautiful life with a wonderful person and two crazy cats, you live in a beautiful house, and you have a stable job that has excellent benefits.  Slap on a white picket fence and you’re living the American dream!  So why, for the love of god why, can’t you just sit back and enjoy it?”

Guilt.  Because I’m trying to meet impossible standards and I haven’t accepted myself for who I am.  And feeling restless and unbalanced inside means feeling restless and unbalanced about everything else in your life, too, no matter how good it is.

So, I declare this the year of getting back to good.  I’m not even sure how I will keep this promise, but the other morning I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said, rather quietly, “I like you.  You’re okay.  You’re doing just fine.”  And I’ve repeated it every day since, whispering it to myself as a mantra when I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed.  Reassurance that I don’t have to be perfect, that I can just be me, and that’s enough.

And it’s funny how forcing yourself to let go of some of those expectations really lightens the load.  Enough to, say, start eating healthier, without really having to think about it.  Or wanting to take photographs again.  Or redesigning your Web site for the first time in nearly a year, which is exactly what I did this week.  Not because I felt obligated to, but because I wanted to.

There’s a lot to be said for letting things go, for giving up expectations that may have outlived their usefulness, for letting life wash over you instead of paddling frantically against the current.

I like you, you’re okay, you’re doin’ just fine.

And lo and behold, I am.

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