Isn't that what recovering persons say, "I'm one month clean."? Or is that outdated?
Well, whatever they say, that's how I feel. It's been one month since I began my effort to be a calmer, more present, and more open-lapped mother.
But, just like smoking, or whatever other vice one uses as an emotional steam valve, one has to keep on quitting. I think it takes a very long time before being totally calm and present is the natural state. At least for me. It's a beast that had really taken up residence in my heart for a while- the distracted, secretly tight-wound claustrophobe that I turned into. A complete eviction may take some time.
Like, in the last week, I've noticed certain elements of my distracted mom self creeping back in. Those times when I desperately want to be released from the constant responsibility of these beautiful, mewling little people. I grab a quick look at e-mail, or Facebook just to stretch a tentacle out into the world at large. It's like taking 'just one puff'. I'm just checking out for a second.
But then seconds turn into minutes, and then there's just one more thing I want to read on the computer, then I put on just another quick show to buy myself a little more breathing room, and then...the zombies come. They want me, so they crowd around me like seagulls pecking at me like I'm french fries. Then I get annoyed and then they say they want more yogurt and then I'm all, "Where are my slippers!" and they are like, "More yogurt, mama!" and I'm, "You JUST had yogurt!' and they go, "More!" and they paw at my lap and begin wrending my clothes and I'm like, "Your bowels are going to seize like hardened concrete if I give you one more cup of yogurt!" and they say "Kefir then! Mama, I'm hungry!" and I bark, "That is IMPOSSIBLE! You are not hungry. It is not POSSIBLE that you are hungry!" and they say, "Maaaammaaaa, yoooogguuuurrt" in that terrible gravely whine and I say, "Oh fuck, PLEASE with the constant dairy!" and then "Will you LET. GO. of my pants please!"
(/march to kitchen, fill cups of yogurt- silence the seagulls)
SO. I see what's happening here, the slippery slope of distraction and the desire to escape. It requires constant vigilance, constant maintenance. Here's what I have learned in the last month of staying calm:
1. Know your triggers. One of my triggers, for example, is children. So I moved out. Things are much easier. No, just kidding. But I did come to terms with the fact that there is just ALWAYS going to be the whining, the Needing, the fighting. I am, like a person getting sober, learning to cope with the loud constant static of life with children, without relying on frequent spacing out and escaping.
2. The frantic begging and exasperation approach doesn't ever work. I can say with certainty that spazzing out when the children behave as mongrels, always makes the situation worse. I am practicing what I call the Lebowski Approach. When Griffin colors all over the wall with non-washable crayon on a wall with specialty-80-dollar-a-gallon paint that we have no spare of, I say, "Dude. You just did that." And then I look at it and I nod for a moment. "You totally colored all over the wall, little man." My niece, Logan, has a tattoo that says "Let it Be." I thought it was a little silly when she got it, now I think it's genius. A needed reminder that things just are. They just are.
3. Sing it out. Sometimes when a person pisses you off, singing in an exaggerated opera voice is the most appropriate thing to do. The loud, high sound and concentration on hitting the right pitch is a perfect focus for free-floating rage vapor. Try it! "Meeeee me me me me! You are whiiiiiniiiiing and it makes me want to throw you down the staaaaaiiiiirs but I love you very much so I woooooon't! Because then I would have to drive to the emergency room in this snow-ho-ho-ho-hoooooooo."
4. Be sure I have scheduled, protected, REAL time to myself without the marauding crowds. That is why I have been waking at 4:45am every morning to be sitting here in the quiet of this room. It is critical, I tell you, to maintain space before welcoming the zombies. I have to store up a lot of open space before they can come and fill it up. Then I can pour myself into them during the day, without the desperate need for a little escape. Because I know the zombies won't give it. I have to take it.
5. Last but certainly not least: see how much better I like myself. When I get through a situation like, oh, I don't know, someone just spit a mouthful of chewed up crackers and cheese onto my bedspread because, you know, their mouth felt crowded, and I can say, "So you did that. Thank you I LOVE wiping up pre-barf, you adorable little thing," I feel a lot more like myself than I have in a couple of years. It makes me feel like Lisa, instead of an overwhelmed parenting machine straining at the gears.
It's not been easy, this last month. You remember my post for a couple of weeks ago, "Saying 'Yes' to Atomic Mess"? Where instead of letting insignificant battles lead to explosive frustration, I'm all, "Suuure, you want to take a few extra things to nap? Sure, honey, here. Let me make you a boat to set them in so you can carry them up the stairs easier to your crib."
And I go to grab her favorite book and return to this:
Seriously. Give them a inch.