My amazing mother-in-law gave me The Mother’s Almanac right before WInnie was born. It’s filled with useful advice about feeding, sleeping, diapering, playing, cooking… nuggets of wisdom that my tired eyes tried to take in during those early months. Fortunately, one item did stick to this used-up old flypaper that is my brain. Authors Kelly and Parsons suggest that mothers try to do one thing every day that “can’t be undone.”
I think of that suggestion often as I grit my teeth through another load of dishes or laundry, or another bout with the vacuum cleaner. Those dishes just get dirtied again, the clothes stained with marker and applesauce, the rugs appear – within hours, it seems – to be sprinkled with a crunchy coating of dirt and playdough. All these things come undone. And, then, so do I.
So when Winnie was about ten months old, I decided that I would spend my precious droplets of available time more conscientiously, focusing on things that couldn’t be undone. I made my peace with dirty carpets. The family acquired more socks and underwear, which doesn’t keep our clothes clean, but it allows for more time between trips to the laundromat. Here are some of the things that I’ve decided to focus on, in my little pursuit of happiness.
First and most of all, I’ve become a reader, even more so than I was before. Sometimes I can’t find the energy to do anything that requires physical activity – like, you know, standing up – so reading suits me perfectly. It rejuvenates me, gets me thinking, gives me something to look forward to, and makes me feel like I have some company on lonesome days.
I’ve committed myself to making time for yoga, even if I can only find time for one class each week. The physical and mental benefits are very real for me. However, what really gets me jazzed is when my teacher Carla demonstrates a pose that I think I could never, in a million years, not even after three weeks of daily yoga and meditation on a beach in Bali, accomplish. And, then, I try it. And I do it. (Or, at least, my body sort of flails around with my limbs going in the general direction they’re supposed to.) And then, I can’t stop smiling.
Really, learning how to do anything at all, especially something that once seemed intimidating or challenging, makes me stand up straighter and gives me something to crow about. I’ll be posting about some of these new skills I’ve got in my toolbox, from knitting hats to making croutons.
My friend Sara helped me to remember how essential and nourishing a good talk with a friend can be. The best kind of talks happen in person, over a beer, and without having to stop every few minutes to say, “Don’t touch that PLEASE!” An honest share-fest with a friend can keep me going for a long time, like a bowl of oatmeal. It’s the kind of thing that too easily gets de-prioritized. I need to remember that carving out the time is so worth it. Perhaps I should get a tattoo, to remind myself.
When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me stories of how her dad – my Dede – would take her and her brothers into the city for a lunch date and a special trip to the bookstore. “We’re making memories,” he would say, signaling them all to do just that – to notice, to make the event special. Lately, I find myself trying to do this in my life. A trip to the library, a ride on the bus… anything can be an occasion if we sit up and look around, noticing what makes it special and, even, joyful.
Some days, I don’t have time or energy to knit, or to write, or to even hold up my end of a coherent conversation. Some days feel so full of “to-dos” that I don’t feel I’m really doing anything. On those days, I challenge myself to be aware of my surroundings as I walk. Regardless of where I’m going, I wrestle my focus away from my destination and take note of the steps I’m taking. I take deep breaths of air and notice its temperature as it travels down my windpipe, as it brushes on my skin. I reach my feet out as far as I can to grab hold of the earth, then push it behind me before once again lifting each foot so that it hangs, for just one moment, in the sky. Those steps, they’re almost like leaps. At the end of those days, when I think back over what I’ve done, at least I have that.
It’s not much, but they can’t that away from me.