What is being grounded, what is home, what is being here, what is enough, what am I letting in, what am I shutting out.
The last 2 months have been full of things that require my whole self. The big one was moving in with my boyfriend and his 4 kids. Going from being in a quiet little apartment with my dog and cat, to living outside of town in a house with so many people who are constantly moving and feeling and talking and BEING out loud at the same time—this was a shift.
While there are other things that require my focus – yoga teacher training, training for a race, working full-time with a team of energetic people –this thing, this adjusting to a new life, has been the hard thing. Waking up to run 8 miles requires energy, and it’s not easy, but I can control it completely. Less so with yoga training and work, but still, there is an expectation and a goal and you can be graded or rated. There are tests to pass. Moving in with kids and my boyfriend and into everyone’s life, I have found less expectations that can be met and less to control. There is no manual or training plan that I can download online. I would pay serious money if there was. Being in these relationships with these people is such a rewarding thing, but there’s no clear way to do it. In this state of ambiguous best intentions and questionable limits of patience, I’ve learned some things. These are reminders to me, but hopefully you can find some truth here as well:
- Do things because you want to do them. Besides the requirements, the must-dos, like taking care of needs, make sure you want to do the thing for the sake of doing it. Whether it’s volunteering or buying your girlfriend flowers or making kids a giant pancake breakfast, don’t do it for the thanks. That’s where resentment finds you. I love using my time and energy to do “nice things” and favors and extra stuff for the people in my life. In romantic relationships, or working relationships, or friendships, we almost expect those things to be noticed or reciprocated. Kids do not operate in this way, from my observations. You better want to sit and watch Beauty and the Beast, without the expectation that your fellow moviegoer will now want to go to bed on time because you were so kind to watch a movie with her. Not so much. Kids aside, I think this is a good reminder for me in general. Bartering with good deeds is a path to resentment with your partner, with your coworkers and with your family. Do it because you want to. Say I love you and mean it. Take care of needs. Bake cookies for everyone because you like cooking and giving people sugar brings you joy, not because you need validation. I am so guilty of this. I am trial and error personified.
- Take care of yourself. I hear people with kids say that your kids come first and that they’re the most important thing in the world. I firmly believe that different things work better for different families, and because I don’t have kids of my own, I will never make sweeping statements on child rearing. Promise. What I do know about living with children is that if you give endlessly of yourself, there is nothing left to hold you together. When I first moved in, I adopted this idea that kids come first, partially because I assumed this is how my boyfriend operated. What I learned is that he had found this selflessness to be unsustainable. Their needs, yes of course, come first. You gotta take care of kids. They’re kids. But everything they want and may need in 5 minutes, he can’t take care of that if he hasn’t taken care of himself. My yoga teacher always talks about making sure your well is full, so that you can teach. Your well needs to be full of the things that nourish and keep you charged. For me, with teaching, it’s rest and food and quiet and sometimes very long showers. Similarly, I need those things to be fully present and able to care for kids without burning out. It’s true for teaching, it’s true at work, and I know it’s true for my ability to be social. I can’t be awesome at your dinner party if I haven’t had a minute to myself all week, if I haven’t found my way to the yoga mat or the running path, or if I’m attempted to live on M&Ms. I learn over and over again that listening to what I need does not make me selfish. My capacity to give of my energy, without an expectation of a return on my investment, is highest when my well is full.
- Life is full of seasons. This season, of change and newness, is also one of nesting and wanting to be home. I struggle with the idea that I should be doing more. More art, more socializing, more travel. I love those things. Right now though, they’re not my highest priority, but I know how important it is to me to make sure I don’t lose them entirely. Because that’s a good way to break your own heart. Emailing friends more has helped, instead of making physical plans when I’m too busy. Planning small trips away keeps that itch scratched for now. Waking up early every once in a while to make some small piece of artwork. Last week it was clay beads. It was calming and simple and I didn’t worry that it was too simple or not enough whatever. I’ve had to give myself tons of grace with this stuff. Quieting the “you should be” mind is always a challenge though. Like, every day. “This is a season” has become my mantra/way to shut that up.
- And finally, I would not be here if I was not sober. This season of change is hard, but amazing. I feel stress but also so much fulfillment. At a base level, I don’t wake up feeling anxious as often since getting sober. I would not be able to handle these new stresses with that kind of anxiety. I would never be able to be as present as I need to be with a hangover. This place where I am, this life of challenges and reward and love that I’ve found, would not be possible for me if I was drinking. For you, drinking might not be the thing. I know that finding that thing, that thing that has to go so that you can be free, is the place to start.
So yes, in 2 months, I have learned 4 things that I think are true. Do you think these things hold water outside of sobriety or kids or yoga or whatever else is in my life right now? Do they hold true in yours? What’s your thing that you’ve learned this month? What did you unlearn? I’d love to read about it in the comments. I would also love for you to email me if you questions or things you’d like me to write about or if you have a good story that you want me to read. Give it all to me. It fills my well.