Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Road to Happiness

There are times in everyone's life when you feel like the famous poem applies to you: two roads diverge and you are left to choose.

Sometimes, it's not two. Sometimes it's four or seven or so many you can't possibly know how many there are. I don't know if it's the season and the warming of the earth where the sun wakes earlier and stays with us well past the hour when Rohan starts to run the sleepiness in his eyes. I can't be sure if it's the aging of my children, now One and Three, Toddlers both with not a Baby left in the house. Maybe it's just life and MY age and being married six and a half years and owning a home and three cars and one dog. Maybe it's the reality of credit card debt that sits hidden like porn, shoved under a mattress so no one will see it when they come to visit. And we shut the doors too, to keep prying eyes of friends and family away from the secret messes that lurk in the darker corners of the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen pantry. Maybe it's the feeling of stuff, piled and stacked and never really sufficiently organized but rather re-piled and re-stacked and re-hidden (Close door to hide mess. Open door to shove more mess in. Close again. Repeat.). Maybe it's budding tomato plants and a pink potted flower that blooms bright from its corner of the patio, decadently soaking in the late afternoon's golden rays. It might just be the curls that form at the nape of Luca's neck, reaching through like vines on a trellis of straight blonde hair above. Sometimes, I think it's the way Rohan stops me from moving - physically apprehends me with his body, clutching at my legs and throwing his sweaty face into me, crying "MAMAMAMA!" until I lift him - and grounds me in the moment. Whatever it is, it has awoken a need for change.

You know, as a married and parented person, it's difficult to say that. I want change. Because no matter how you couch it or what qualifiers you add, it ends up sounding less like the "I'm ready to take on the world and make myself a better and happier person!" and more like "Holy shit this family of mine makes me want to imbibe grain alcohol and flirt with inappropriate men!" And, for the record, in my case at least it's fully the first one and entirely not the second.

For some time now I've been very happy with my life but not quite thrilled with the Me who is living it. Not entirely comfortable in my skin. Never feeling like I have enough to give to anyone, anywhere. Not enough time for the kids, not enough energy and intrigue for the husband, not enough freedom for the friends, not enough motivation for work. That's not to say I've given up; instead I have given my all and ended up not wholly satisfied with what that has meant.

It has meant I work long hours and miss precious time with my kids.

Which in turn has meant I rush home, spend all evening with them before tucking them into bed, and miss caring for my home and my husband.

Which means when they get to bed I clean up and do laundry and blog and catch up on emails and catch up with my husband.

Which means, I borrowed a book from my boss in March and have only just this weekend cracked open it's spine and read the first 4.5 pages.

Which means, which means, which means....

My life is full, to be certain. It has love and friends and importance. I give my all to the task at hand, whether that's a presentation at work done on 3.5 hours of sleep with no time to prep, packing lunches for daycare, or just plain sitting on the floor playing blocks with the kids. But while this is happening, there's this inner voice saying to me: what about...and what about...and what about???.

And here, again, is where it's tricky. Because when you say, "Well that's all going swimmingly and all, but why can't we do X and why haven't we pushed forward and tried Y and forget about Z for a minute, because remember when you promised yourself that you would do P and Q and W?" it comes out as, "Oh man I am SO sick of my life and everything in it!"

And let me be the first to admit that I know this sounds Pollyanna-ish, but the truth is this: I am unbelievably happy. Not, like, every-fucking-minute-of-every-disgusting-please-quit-being-such-a-faker-optimist-before-you-start-shitting-unicorns-swathed-in-rainbows day, but in general. Overall. Imagine me sweeping my hands in a full, circular motion. Because that full, circular motion is my life. It's grand and lovely and organically beautiful. But in the center of that sweeping circle, sometimes it is a bit empty. I am a bit empty. I let myself off easy and stop trying to make myself better. I accept the status quo with platitudes like, "Oh who has time for X, anyhow?" and "I would love to Y, but I still haven't done P and Q and it's all so overwhelming!" and mostly, "I'd do W but dammit I was so busy doing A-L that I just don't have the time or the energy anyhow!"

And so I sit, not choosing ANY road, but sort of peering down each to see which one has the most scenic view and a pack 'n' play for the boy and books for the girl and perhaps a good local dive with tasty wings to draw my husband in as well. And, indecisive as ever, I decide inertia isn't so bad and just keep on digging my heels into the same spot, stepping from one foot to the other and sometimes leaning against a sturdy tree to rest in the shade.

I'm not only weary of resting here much longer, I'm quite ready for an adventure. And it doesn't even need to be anything big enough to change the earth's rotation or cause an end to boredom. Boredom, really, is pretty underrated. Boredom is a sign of contentedness, and who the hell doesn't want to be content? But I have found the place in life where I'm feeling the need to take off my shoes and squish mud between my toes and then run in the grass down any one of those roads just to get out and see the sights. What mom and dad used to say when I was a kid and sandwiched in the back seat of our Suburban on road trips is insanely true of life: "Look all around! You're missing the world as it's passing by right out your window!"

So I took to the therapy of purging and list-making this weekend. It's insane how someone as chaotically disorganized as inertia lets me be can love lists so very much. But a list I made and purging I did, until my kitchen pantry door need not be closed now (well, that would be true if not for a certain little blonde imp who likes to troll for fallen animal crackers and pull out all the trash bags), and my fridge and freezer are not only in order, but all three are inventoried. Small step #1: organize and list, so that eating better foods that nourish us and make us healthy and strong is easier than hitting up the Taco Bell drive thru.

And then I bought a basil plant. And a few weeks ago I planted tomato and pepper seeds out back. In addition to Piggy's purple flowers and a butterfly garden kit I threw down, we're working to build a yard that is functional and beautiful. A happy place for us to play with our kids. Small step #2: bring beauty home.

On top of it, I've started considering ways in which two very different passions and loves of mine could parlay into...a profession?...a paid hobby?...a priority on my 'Me!' list? I'm not yet sure, but I know that it's important for me to follow the calling of both passions and see where they lead me. Until recently, they have been nothing but daydreams, but then the daydreams started to take over my thoughts more often than not to the point where I was constantly feeling like I was not being true to myself if I didn't look further. Small step #3: be true to self and look further.

And we've made the committment to simplifying our financial lives as well. Credit cards are no longer welcome in our home. Debt is being paid off and not replaced. We are working to become a cash-only (or debit-only) household because the constant worry and thought involved in credit cards and loans and payments and interest rates is not worth the stress or the time it takes, and nothing is worth a 29% APR. Small step #4: let go of credit and build savings.

The road to happiness, for me, is marked by many things. Above all, though, I have come to realize most recently that it's marked by simplicity. I feel the need to purge my home of junk, my body of junk, and my life of junk that clogs up my mind and takes my focus away from where I want it to be.

1 comment:

Tabitha said...

I am so happy for you, Katie! You are such an inspiration and I am so glad to have you in my life right now! :o)


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