When things turn ugly

Photo by Steve Bowbrick

Have you ever noticed it’s pretty easy to take a perfectly good thing and turn it into an ugly thing? A bowl of chips can turn into eating the whole bag, a conversation with a friend can turn into gossip, being organized can turn into being obsessive and controlling etc.

I let this happen all the time.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve been thinking about this blog and my bucket list and it’s become this ugly thing looming over my head. I think things like:

  1. When will you get it together, Jess, and workout more? 
  2. When will you stop stressing over your baby?
  3. If you don’t figure these things out then say goodbye to doing anything with your life.

These are the kind of things that are happening deep in the back of my mind. I try to tell them off:

  1. I just had a baby! (Four months ago, get it together, woman!)
  2. I will never stop stressing over my kids, it’s what mothers do! (Are you sure it’s all mothers? Can’t you be better than them?)
  3. I don’t need to “do anything with my life”! I still have value even if I don’t “do anything”. (Sure keep telling yourself that. It’s just an excuse for being lazy.)

It’s weird even writing these things out because I know they’re crazy. This blog and these goals were never supposed to turn ugly. They were supposed to add to my life: add challenge, fun, satisfaction, adventure (and bragging rights?). I think it’s that last part that made things go sour. Somewhere I developed a drive to show people I can do these things. When I admit it – like that one ugly response revealed  in #2 – I want to be “better” than other people and on some level I think I am. Doing hard things validates this in me.

The last few years I have noticed a frightening trend: I’m not better (surprise, surprise) and I actually give up on hard things pretty easily.

But really, I’m regular. I’m plain-Jane-vanilla-regular and I need to get it through my thick skull that it’s not a bad thing. I’m ordinary and trying to do ridiculous things to try to be different or prove something isn’t going to solve any problems I have but only make more.

So right now I’m going to keep trying to do my little goals:

  • Be more ok with letting non-relatives watch Jack
  • Get my hair cut
  • Go to the dentist
  • Try to care less what people think about me
  • Keep going to the gym

And maybe that means I’ll be able to do some of the other bigger things on my list some day. And maybe not. But I refuse to let this stuff define my happiness even if I really really want them. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we hope or want them to and that’s ok.
Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to chill the frig out.

Happy New Year

veggies

A few days ago my mother in law asked us all at the dinner table if we had any New Years Resolutions. I hadn’t really thought about it until then except that I was toying with the idea of letting this year be a “no resolution” year largely due to my (exceptionally cute) two-month-old. At this point, I have yet to figure out how to do groceries in a way that doesn’t involve ordering them online and having them delivered (FOR A DOLLAR!!).

But one thing remains a problem that, unless fixed, will surely lead to bad health and general discomfort: I don’t eat my vegetables and fruits.

I just can’t be bothered. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that I don’t like them more than meat and potatoes. I don’t like them enough to have them be more than an afterthought at best. If I have the option of a salad bar, I will always get a salad, but with the option of a salad or fries it will almost always be fries.

On top of that, my high blood pressure is now on the radar. My OBGYN induced my labour due to high blood pressure (but not pre-eclampsia) and I had to stay longer in the hospital for the same reason. I’m not even 30 and I feel tightness in my chest frequently these days because of it. It seems all that McDonald’s is finally catching up with me.

So as I thought about what needed to change in my life it was pretty simple: I need to learn how to love vegetables and stop eating poorly. I thought being pregnant and breastfeeding would encourage me to eat well, but so far that hasn’t happened and I managed to bake a healthy, strong baby eating mostly potato chips.

There are a few other things related to health that I want to incorporate into my New Years resolution but I haven’t nailed all the details down yet. I think my goals will be in phases where by March (for example) I want to have x habit and by June y habit.

Maybe by the time Jack is eating real food I will be too!

Extra-ordinary

As I was preparing to give birth and transition away from “world changing” work to maternity leave two months ago, I started thinking about what it means to be ordinary. I was a bit nervous that I would (temporarily) leave a job I really enjoy and find much fulfilment in to being woken up in the night, changing 10+ diapers a day only to find myself deeply disappointed with the repetitive ordinariness.

In preparation for this transition (because it’s me, and when do I ever just do something without preparing) I started reading a book recently released called Ordinary. It’s a bit of a response to the popular idea lately that everything/everyone needs to be extraordinary, and live lives that are epic or radical. In some ways I felt like the first part of the book spoke directly to this blog saying, “Just live your life, stop trying so hard to be something and just be.” It was a helpful reminder that ordinary isn’t necessarily bad or boring. In a culture where we’re always competing to have the most exotic vacations, the most epic weddings, the smartest kids, etc. we overlook the treasure in “regular” life.

daddy-heroRight now, my life is “extra-ordinary”, as in really-really ordinary. I’m doing what billions of women have done since the beginning of time: try to keep an infant alive and then turn them into a contributing member of society. And yet, when you think about the process of pushing a small human out of your body you can’t help but think: HOW IS THIS NORMAL? HOW IS THIS ORDINARY? But it is. Just like when I was at my University graduation. Bachelors degrees seem like a dime a dozen these days (same with Masters) and the really special people get Doctorates. My mom went on and on about how proud she was that I got my degree, something she never got to do. When I finally got in the convocation hall to receive my degree I realized: degrees may be very common these days but it doesn’t mean it isn’t special and it doesn’t mean I didn’t work really hard for four years to get that piece of paper (that is entirely in latin and I can’t read, thanks Queen’s…). This ordinary thing is still special in some respects.

Making a human is a very regular occurrence in our world, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t extraordinary. While other people are out conversing with other adults and contributing to society, I’m at home watching Gilmore Girls for hours while keeping this tiny human alive and battle his diaper rash. I’m a bit surprised that I don’t feel more disappointed by the slowness and by what the world seems to think is a very un-liberated and menial work. I’m enjoying it. I am grateful for this perspective change and the help to slow down and enjoy the ordinary.

Where the green grass grows

greengrass

I saw this quote on Pinterest a few weeks ago that caught my attention. “The grass is greener where you water it.” It’s the perfect picture of cultivating contentment. Water your grass. Water your grass. Cultivate your interests and your talents.

I was talking to a friend this week who has had a similar experience to me in the last year – related to totally different things. Mine was related to grad school. Should I do it? Is it really where my life should head? But no, it’s a bit too much and wouldn’t fit our lifestyle. Does my husband support the idea? Is it just a pipe dream? In the last year and a half I went back and forth several times. Yes, I was going to do it. No, it’s too lofty a goal. But maybe we should look into it? Yes, no, yes, no… then I get pregnant. But the answer is like yes, just not right now.

Her story was about a small personal business. Should she do it? Should she not? She really wanted to, she’d be really good at it! But no, it’s a bit too much and wouldn’t fit their lifestyle. But it would be a really great fit! Would her husband support it? She went back and forth on it until one day she realized… she just had to own the fact that it really was a good fit and she should go for it.

It was kind of fun for me to realize that we had very similar paths to two totally different ends. Never once did we look at the other’s life and think “maybe that’s what I need…” because we’re so different. But it’s not always so easy when you hang out with people who are very similar to you. They may be similar to you, but they aren’t you.

What does this mean for us?

Someone may be able to mentor you to help you get closer to where you want to be. But like Gershwin, they may only be able to mentor you to help you be more like them.

So how can we avoid trying to copy other people’s success and talent and be a better or more “true” version of ourselves?

Fall, Imminence, and Change

hello fallThere’s something about the imminence of fall that just gets my gears going (in a good way). Suddenly, I got my game face on and I’m crocheting again, and blogging, and reading, and being a contributing member to society. Why fall? Especially when fall is usually the time when my brain starts going to mush and my soul starts getting sluggish because winter is coming (you have to whisper that word). I even read an article this week about how this winter is predicted to be even worse than last winter.

Sweet Jesus, have mercy.

But let’s not think about that. Let’s go into our happy place of Pumpkin Spice Lattes (HELLO, I HAVE MISSED YOU!), spicy smelling candles, cool breezes, pants, and cozy sweaters but no need of a coat yet. Automne, je t’aime.

Imminence & Change

W and I have been thinking a lot about change and imminence lately, mostly related to becoming parents. When else in life do you have to wait a long time for a change that WILL come? Even with marriage, graduation, etc. there’s the (unfortunate) slight chance it wont happen. But at this point, I will give birth. Thanks to modern medicine there’s almost no chance we’d lose the baby in the process.

So we sit here and wait, try to expect and prepare for the inevitable. It’s kind of a mind game.

We did our wedding a little non-traditionally. We had a morning service, lunch reception, no dancing party or anything. When the MCs invited my parents up to give their parental speeches, my mother shot me surprised look and a glare and mouthed the words, “You didn’t tell me I was doing a speech!”

She was right. I had assumed. She knows convention and tradition. I had confirmed with my dad, but not my mom. Later, mom explained that because we had done enough things differently, she didn’t assume anything would be the same. Oops.

But no one at the wedding had any idea my mom composed her Mother of the Bride speech on the spot. I wish I had it on video because that was the best speech that has ever been winged.

A year later, my older brother was about to get married and I get a text from my mom thanking me for forgetting to tell her about the speech part of my wedding. The imminence of her delivering a speech at her first-born son’s wedding was eating her alive. She had been up at 4AM most nights trying to think of what she would say.

I can adapt pretty easily; I think it’s one of the positive sides of having moved so many times as a kid. But staring down the barrel of a proverbial gun to watch change come at you is a bit of a different animal.

So now, I’m trying to enjoy the things that have not yet changed: like being able to get 8h of sleep, do what I want (mostly) whenever I want, and not having someone depend on me for their entire existence.

The Pinnacle

Yesterday I think I had the best saturday of my life. Let me give you a run down of what happened:

  • I “woke up” early with Willy’s alarm (6:45) and got out of bed shortly after
  • I read a Psalm
  • I was at the grocery store by 9am
  • I came back, helped tidy the kitchen, prepped lunch
  • I started a load of laundry
  • (Accidentally?) Cleaned the bathroom
  • Ate lunch
  • Evaluated the status of how on-top of our Picture a Week project we are
  • Headed off to a baby shower
  • Came back, baked bread for spelt hamburger buns
  • Made one of W’s favourite meals: Chicken Piquant
  • Cleaned up, read some of Anne of Avonlea, and headed off to a movie with W.

If you don’t immediately understand why this was so great, let me help you understand.

I did laundry, cleaned the bathroom and groceries ALL IN THE SAME DAY. I do not really like groceries or cleaning and laundry can feel like a nuisance. Often when I spend my Saturdays on these activities it feels like it’s all I’ve done and I’m annoyed that I didn’t get to relax or do nice things that I like (I know… this will be parenthood and the rest of my life, right?)

I did some hobby-type things instead of watching more Netflix. I filled 20 minutes here and there with reading, keeping on top of our annual scrapbook and baking.

I was selectively social and left before I had had too much. I love this term because it describes how I feel after a week filled with people. I will always been an extravert, but sometimes I need  time with certain people or anybody but certain people. It was an enjoyable afternoon celebrating the baby of a friend a few weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy.

I made good food for the man I love. I listened to CBC Radio 2 and made a heart-warming supper. I forgot how I do like to cook when I feel confident about what I’m doing and I’m not stressed for time. It felt good.

Unplanned

I think part of what made this day the best was that I had some key things in place that I needed to do but I hadn’t planned out my day to the point that it felt stressful. They were all executed at a leisurely pace and wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t do them. But the most important thing was getting up early so I felt I had time to do everything without feeling like everything was rushed and terrible.

I’m writing this out mostly because I will always need a reminder of

  1. why getting up early is good, and;
  2. why staying on top of things like groceries, laundry and cleaning will always feel better when it’s done.

I’m sure I’ve written about this before – how I have selective memory. I forget that things I don’t like to do actually feel good when it’s done. It’s like playing certain boardgames with people. I will NEVER want to. But I’ve learned that if I agree despite my zero interest or desire, I may actually still have fun and enjoy my time.

I said to W at supper, “I think I have reached the peak of my life today, and I will never have this perfect a Saturday ever again. I think I’m ok with that, because at least I know it happened.”

Kind of sad, but I’m anticipating my life to be totally upside down once baby comes. Part of me wants to try to make Saturdays like this (flexibly?) regimented and habitual. The other part of me is afraid that if I try to do that I will add all kinds of pressure and expectation and it will culminate in epic failure and disappointment.

This day reminds me that I do need more order and structure in my life to help me manage everything, and I’m still trying to figure out how to do that as painlessly as possible.