Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Creating Sorbet Moments in My Day

As anyone who knows me pretty well can attest, my life is strikingly similar to that of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. It's uncanny, really. I sometimes watch an episode and think, "It's like she is channeling me. I'm sitting here on my couch and I'm staring into a mirror."

So, it should come as no surprise that I could relate to Carrie when her boyfriend Aiden moved into her apartment (well, other than the fact that I've never dated anyone named Aiden . . . although I did develop a crush on Aiden Quinn after he was in that movie in which Johnny Depp makes grilled cheese with an iron . . . and never lived with a boyfriend). Carrie was used to having her independence, her quiet time, and now she was having to adjust to a full-time partner always being around. She finally tells Aiden that she loves him very much but she just needs one hour right when she comes home every night to be by herself. Once she is given this time alone, she realizes that she really only needs a couple of minutes to breathe and get recharged, not a whole hour, before she is ready to engage with the person she loves and who shares her living space.

Like my doppelganger Carrie Bradshaw, I am realizing more and more the importance of trying to recharge quietly before shifting from one part of my daily schedule to the next.

Before I go any further, I must emphasize that I am not complaining about how hectic and loud my life usually is. I am happier now than I ever have been in my adult life. Well, ages 22 to 24 had some pretty awesome moments of being young and single and employed and going out A LOT . . . but now is way better than even that. But just like a dinner at a fine restaurant, where sorbet is offered between each course to cleanse the palate and prepare for the wonderful dish that is coming next, my days could benefit from a few moments of reset as they progress.

Starting with the alarm that goes off at 6:00am, it would be lovely to gather my thoughts and prepare for my day over a cup of coffee or some reading or just with time in silent prayer and deep breathing. A nice transition, or metaphorical sorbet, to move from (always fitful and usually interrupted by a child) sleep to a new morning. Just a few minutes to wake up my body, mind and spirit before my mom responsibilities begin. Instead, the day usually begins with the sounds of two kids fighting in the hallway, punctuated by cries of "Moooooommmmmm!"that I do my best to ignore or my son turning my light on at 5:53am to show me his wardrobe selection for the day or my daughter coming into the bathroom moments after I've stumbled into the shower to inform me that her brother is annoying.

I've tried getting a few steps ahead of them and setting my alarm for 5:30am. But the boy must have some sort of trigger that goes off in his brain while he is sleeping to inform him that his mother is attempting to start her day. I can tiptoe around my room, shuffle past his door to head downstairs to the kitchen . . . my efforts at near silent movement are for naught. Without fail, he will jump off his bed to locate me and yell, 'Mom, what are you doing up??!!" No sorbet. It's just a whirlwind of chaos until everyone is out the door at 7:15am.

After working all day at a job that I love but that keeps me quite busy, I suppose that the drive home does allow me a half hour or so of alone time to transition from work to home life. I usually sing loudly, flipping between radio stations every eleven seconds or so, interrupted every time I feel the need to yell something toward another driver using language that I never even think of using when anywhere else besides behind the wheel of a car. Today I accompanied Tiffany on "Could've Been" and Nirvana on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and only used my horn once, so I count that as a successful commute.     

On some days, I have started to take it upon myself to create a quiet, traffic-free sorbet moment after work. Before I pick up my kids, I head home (the girl's school and boy's day care are both just around the corner from my neighborhood, so it's not creating any extra travel). I look at the mail, change out of work clothes into my no limits dodgeball/street baseball pitcher/climb a tree with the best of them clothes, and maybe get a drink of water. You know what? On the days I take just those five minutes alone, the rest of the evening goes so much better. When I don't, mail gets thrown on the table as I mediate an argument and the tension that has built up from sitting at my desk all day and then in traffic never gets a chance to dissipate.

And once the kids are in bed, I've been allowing myself time once in a while to do just as I am now. Writing makes me happy and helps to relax me. Or I'll watch an episode of House of Cards or Family Ties on Netflix (very different options, so my mood is key here). I try to read, but find myself at 10:00pm slouched over and nodding off after two pages. (Oh, how I do miss spending an afternoon getting lost in a book!) I've decided I don't always have to move from tucking in kids to dishes to laundry to emails for church or work or other responsibilities to crashing in bed. It's OK to give myself this time every so often.

When I was a kid, my mom had a rule that she stopped hearing "Mom!" at 9:00pm. She needed to put those boundaries on us (which we often tested) because she deserved time to recharge after being a stay-at-home mom all day and teaching piano lessons at our home in the afternoons and evenings. I know that I need to be better about enforcing that same rule in the morning . . .. no "Mom!" until 6:30am (with exceptions made, of course, for instances of massive bleeding, hair catching on fire, projectile vomiting, etc.). My kids are old enough to understand that. And I need to continue to find those ways to grab a few minutes after work or after the kids' t-ball and softball games on the weekend that I can steal away for myself to be then a better and more present mom as a result.

When I was a single mom to a preschooler and an infant, the notion of taking five minutes periodically throughout the day to close my eyes, breathe and reboot seemed farfetched. But I'm at a different stage now. My kids are eight and four (excuse me . . . four and a half . . . that boy is determined that he is going to catch up to and then be older than his sister someday) and do not demand my attention every moment. It's not that I'm not anxious to spend time with them. I get excited every afternoon as I'm driving home from work to see them, hug them and hear about their days. I struggle with the guilt of being away from them for nine hours a day, especially my son because he didn't have the first few years with a stay-at-home mom like his sister did. But I'm also learning to accept and embrace the notion that wanting to have a few minutes for me here and there is OK and makes me value even more the two most important people in my world.

So, here is to creating little sorbet moments that allow us to best appreciate each course of a wonderful day!