Notes from the Middle

I celebrated my birthday this last weekend. It wasn’t a big one or a milestone––just a normal, next year sort of birthday. I’ve been in the process of recovering from a terrible cold since Christmas. It goes in waves and I’ve maxed out on all the drugs so was reduced to napping on the couch, sipping an apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper concoction. Fortunately, after a feverish night, I felt well enough on my actual day to enjoy Frank’s boeuf bourguignon an afternoon of hanging out.

I was talking with a friend about this stage in our late thirties. We’re not really in the young parenting years of the “tired thirties,” though we’re not fully out of them yet, either. Nor are we yet in the world-conquering decade of the forties. Our kids are more independent but not fully. My identity is still that of stay-at-home mom, though I’m seeing a new season quickly approaching.

It’s a year that I could easily wish away, in pursuit of what’s next.

I recently got a book by an author I really like about being in her forties but just a few paragraphs in, I knew it was too soon. I’m not there yet. I liked what she had to say and am looking forward to reading it when the time is right but it’s just not yet my season.

I’m learning to be careful about living in the moment. I’m a person who can not only plan for what’s next but also romanticize the next stage. When people say, “Mamas of littles, it gets better!” I suddenly find myself fighting discontentment. I start noticing all the ways it’s not better and looking forward to the ways it will be.

But that’s not reality. Each season has its strengths and struggles and I’m remembering to embrace both. For me, this looks like having endless tea parties with Elle because it’s the last year we’ll have time and space to do whatever we want together. It’s blogging without goals of platform building or book publishing because that’s what I have the capacity for in this moment. It’s remembering the choices I’ve made and the fact that seasons of transition are just as important to embrace as the full-on season itself.

I love dreaming the big dreams and spinning ideas for what life could look like in the next years and decades. It’s fun and energizing. But I never want to take away from this moment. From walking to school and volunteering and having the space to just take a day off to rest or see a movie with the girls. These are unique and precious years, I know.

So just like my one word for the year is not a word at all, I’m starting this next year of life without much of a guide. I’m learning to plant my feet in the space I’m in now, to pursue dreams and ideas while holding them lightly. I’ll both expand on ideas and read more novels. I’ll invest in my community and in my small family. I won’t pick up the half-finished Costco box projects just yet because I’m starting to see the beauty in those games.

There’s something peaceful in sitting with this moment. I’m spinning less, comparing less, and finding more ideas that I hadn’t considered. I’m learning to lean into that freedom and my shoulders are relaxing a bit. Who knows where this year will end––I never do, right?––but for now, I’m thankful for the time and space to stop and enjoy.

What about you? Are you in a season of hustle or pause? Are you pursuing the next right thing or are you breathing in this moment?

When the World Feels Big

I’m just dipping my toes into the Enneagram, a personality structure. I’m pretty sure I’m a Type One which means Perfectionist or Reformer. One of the strengths of this type is that I’m always looking for ways to make the world a better place. One of its weaknesses is that I have trouble stopping to notice the beauty in the moment.

IMG_8428There are so many studies and books about the importance of daily gratitude. It makes sense that pausing to be grateful is healthy. It changes our perspective and helps to ground us.

I especially need to remember the small moments when the world feels big and overwhelming. In my head, I know that the small daily things are world-changing but my feelings don’t always match up. When I stop and remember the beauty, I remember this important daily work of loving my girls, loving my family, loving my neighbors is really what does change the world. Calling my congresspeople is essential, but it doesn’t trump loving my neighbors.

So today, as we walked to school in 13-degree temperatures, I’m thankful for the opportunity to walk to school every day. We talk with the crossing guards, have gotten to know other kids and parents, and have formed community, even when it would be more comfortable to drive.

IMG_8376I’m thankful for the opportunity to volunteer every week with other moms as they learn English. They’ve taught me so much and I feel much more connected to our school community because of them. I’ve learned about immigration in ways I never could have by reading articles.

I’ve thankful for the flexibility to be at home with Elle during these little years. It’s tiring and boring but it’s also such a gift to follow her lead if we need a pajama day or a museum day or something in between.

Remembering the beauty around me in these small moments gives me the energy to push back against systems that need reform and gives me hope for the future.

How do you reenergize for the strength to be active in your community? How do you pause and recognize beauty in the everyday moments?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “beauty.”

Someday

“Someday, ride elephant!” Bea loves holding a photo of Frank and I riding Mashumbi in Zambia and wishing for a similar adventure. Ever since “someday” entered her vocabulary, Bea wonders about the future: Someday she’ll ride a pony; Someday she’ll go to the park; Someday she’ll go the yogurt shop on a daddy-daughter date; Someday she’ll sleep in a tent and go for a hike.

Riding Mashumbi in Zambia
Riding Mashumbi in Zambia

So much of our lives takes place instantly in the Now. Between toddler-time, the immediacy of social media, and the general urgency of life, I forget to stop and wish for the future. Frank and I used to look through travel books and dream of the places we would visit…someday. We haven’t done that in quite a while. There’s a balance – because someday never actually comes, it can be easy to get stuck in the dreaming phase. Someday turns into new furnaces, preschool tuition, and small getaways that never add up to a big adventure.

I know that this season – of kids and mortgages and small adventures – is precious and passes so quickly. But as I do my best to live in the moment and savor the Now, I want to keep the hope and wonder of Someday alive.

Here are some of the things I want to do Someday:
1. Visit Antarctica
2. Explore Chicago and spend an afternoon at the Art Institute
3. Become an expert in… Something…
4. Go on a polar safari
5. Work with an organization that advocates for a better world

What would you like to do someday?