It’s Just People

One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve grown up is that sometimes, if you are quiet, and if you give people the space, then sometimes, they tell you things. Things that they don’t often tell other people. Oftentimes, these things are sad things, or hard things. Experiences that were soul-shatteringly challenging to go through, experiences they will never get over, or experiences that have fundamentally changed them.

Although it may seem self-centered, when I hear these stories, I often think about my life. Why did this person have to go through this experience, when my life has been comparatively struggle free? I mean, there have definitely been challenges for me, but some things that other people go through make my life seem like it’s just been a walk through daisies, my challenges a harmless garden snake in comparison.

And the conclusion that I’ve come to is that it’s ok.

It’s ok to go through hard things, to have gone to hell and back and find yourself changed on the other side. Sometimes things happen and people will never be the same, but those challenges become part of you, they shape the way you look at the world and the way you interact with people.

But it’s also ok to have smaller trials. You don’t have to have the worst horror stories, the most dysfunctional family, or the worst relationships for it to be ok to struggle with things that are hard for you. We’re not in some world-wide competition where only the people who truly are the saddest, loneliest, and most horrendously destitute creatures on the planet are allowed to be sad or upset about things.

You don’t have to throw up every day and be hospitalized before you hit some magical “pain threshold” where suddenly people are allowed to feel bad for you because you are pregnant sick. It’s ok if you weren’t as sick as somebody else, but that it’s still hard for you. The fact that being less sick was still hard for you doesn’t take a single thing away from another individual who was more sick.

It’s ok to sometimes not handle things with a lot of grace. Life is about messing up and trying better next time. Sometimes you shout, sometimes you lose your temper. You don’t have to have the best excuse in the world to justify being wrong, or losing your temper (because it turns out that even the best excuses don’t make it right). But you also don’t need to have some momentous occasion to decide to be different. You can just decide. And even though it’s hard, and even though it seems to take an eternity, you can change.

And it’s ok. Because it’s not only bad people who have horrific things happen to them. It’s not only bad people who have character flaws. It’s just people.

And it’s ok.

Growing Up

It’s good to be young, but let’s not kid ourselves
It’s better to pass on through those years and come out the other side
With our hearts still beating, having stared down demons
And come back breathing
–The Mountain Goats, “You Were Cool”

So, I’m still young. 23. The budding garden of youth, or whatever. But 23 is also old enough to have gone through some things and gained some measure of maturity. As I was noodling around for a title for this entry, I found that I had written some long-forgotten entries on the subject of growing up in April and May of 2011.

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I feel differently now than I did then. I was dealing with a little bit of impostor syndrome, feeling like I was faking this whole adulthood thing. I had been married less than a year, and marriage is supposed to be some grand threshold where you’re adults for real (or something). But there I was. Still feeling a bit like a kid. But time marches forward, and you have experiences and you grow up, just a little at a time, until I read back over entries written just a little over two years ago and I realize that I not only can I not identify with those feelings anymore, but I can’t even remember having them. Haven’t I felt the way I feel now forever?

I guess that somewhere in those two years, I began feeling like a real grown up. Like an adult. I wouldn’t say that it was the whole thing, but I suspect that having a baby had something to do with it. Children, it seems, have a way of ripping you away from all of the cozy things you want to do and forcing you to do very not cozy things you’d really rather not. Like diapers. And rocking a screaming human at three in the morning when you’d rather be in bed and asleep. And in that process of giving up what you want for what someone else needs, you lose some of the immaturity and silliness of youth.

I’ve run across the sentiment more than once recently from people my age saying things to the effect of “Wow, I can’t believe I’m at this point in my life already! I’ve accomplished so much! At least I don’t have any babies!” While I can totally agree with the first two sentiments, the last one gives me pause. It doesn’t hurt my feelings (far be it for my feelings to be hurt by peripheral friends and acquaintances), but it made me wonder why having babies so young is something that is neither remarkable nor desirable. For sure, it’s not for everybody, but neither is it something that is terrible or life-ending. There seems to be a sentiment that having children is this life-altering, enjoyment-ending shift in your life that you will never ever recover from. And it definitely changes you forever, but it certainly isn’t life–or even enjoyment–ending. And just because things are challenging, or not always desirable, doesn’t mean that they’re not worth it.

This idea that youth should be carefree, that it should be this journey about finding yourself and being yourself–I think the way it’s presented to 20-somethings today can sell people short. Because it turns out that you can be young, and have fewer or more cares, and that you can still find yourself with other people around. Maybe those people are friends, but maybe that person is a spouse. Maybe that person is a baby. Because to me, finding yourself and growing up aren’t things that happen to people who are utterly carefree. You find yourself when you are in trying situations. When you have to decide whether or not you’re going to stand up for yourself. When a landlord has taken advantage of you again. When your friends cancel plans with you last minute because of lame excuses and it really just makes you feel crummy (are babies napping lame excuses? I haven’t figured this one out yet. And I hope not. Because I have sometimes bailed on people because of longer-than-expected naps). You find yourself when you decide how you will react to those situations. And those situations can happen to people in a wide variety of circumstances.

And when I look at who I am now, and when I look back at who I was two years ago, I think that growing up is not such a bad thing. I’m so much happier now than I was in high school, or in college even. Not that I had an unhappy childhood, but life just seems to be getting better and better as I move forward. And if growing up and gaining perspective are part of the things that are making life better, well, then I’d like to continue gaining these things.

So let’s move forward.

Happiness in Making

I’ve got a lot of projects going on. A lot of them are around the house–staining and hanging a coat rack, finishing a table skirt, things like that. Some are other goals, like this blog (which is a replacement for a more personal, private journal, because after 23 years apparently that one just ain’t happening), or things I’d like to cook or sew. Sometimes, especially with the introduction of pregnancies (so tired all the time) and babies (sleep? What is this thing you speak of?) into my life, these projects linger, incomplete, for a while, often replaced by snatches of naps or episodes of Sesame Street (I live a glamorous life, y’all).

But some days and weeks, like this week, I find some extra energy or motivation, and I am able to cross things off my check list that have been lingering. Incidentally, the negative thing about my checklist app is that it helpfully tells me that this task or that has been lingering for 34 days–and I inevitably feel SO BAD about it. Having non-urgent items on my checklist for a long time is embarrassing and frustrating in turns, but today when I stained a coat rack that has been hanging around for quite some time this winter, it was a good reminder as to why I put these things on my list. I enjoy doing it. I enjoyed staining the coat rack, and seeing the beautiful shade that the wood turned. It might not be the best stain job ever, but I think it’s beautiful, and it made me tremendously happy.

And yesterday, Ruby stood on a chair next to me and cup by cup, ingredient by ingredient, she dumped everything into a bowl to make granola. And I realized that I could pass this love of making things–be they food, coat racks, dresses, or anything else–onto Ruby and my other kids. That I can teach her to do these things that bring me simple joys in life, and she can enjoy doing her part in contributing. The granola Ruby and I made was delicious, and when she ate some for breakfast this morning, she seemed aware that she had helped to make it. It was a tender, happy moment for me, and it gave me great joy.

Thoughts on an Impending Baby

With the start of the new year, the rolling into 2014, I suddenly feel like the birth of this baby is imminent. It’s as though subconsciously I wasn’t paying too much attention to my pregnancy because April 2014 was so very far away. It would never come, right?

It turns out that if you don’t pay attention to something, it seems to happen very quickly. One day, I realized that I was heading to my 20 week appointment–wait a minute, 20 weeks? That’s halfway! Where did all that time go?! And then the year turned over, and it started feeling like the baby is going to come very soon. Now I’m 27 weeks, and I feel like the last 13-15 weeks will last forever, but simultaneously like it’s going to be over so soon and I’ll be in labor and have a tiny newborn in the blink of an eye.

Part of it, I think, is that I got a lot bigger over the holidays, and I feel like I’ve entered the final embiggening of pregnancy. In the last trimester, if what happened last time holds true, everything expands just a bit. My arms, my legs, my face, my torso. Even my maternity clothes don’t fit as well as they used to by the end. Along with the embiggening are the general discomforts of late pregnancy that have begun creeping in. I’ve definitely felt the tendons in my groin loosening in preparation for the birth, and random aches and pains flare up here and there. Heartburn is knocking at the door.

I vacillate between not wanting to have the baby yet, and desperately wanting the baby right now. There’s a part of me that wonders if we really thought through this whole having a newborn when Ruby still feels very much like a baby (it’s too late for second thoughts, guys!). But a number of my friends have been having babies recently, and seeing the pictures and hearing the stories makes me want to have my baby now now now now now so that I can snuggle my new little sweetie pie and love her or him on the outside. And get my body back.

With the turn of the year, I’ve started thinking about things that we need. Mostly we’ve got everything, but I need some new diapers (I inherited mine from my mother, and after being used on 5 babies, there are quite a few that are fraying), and then there’s just some of this and that. I’ll probably get disposable diapers again for the first week or so until things are a tad more settled, I want to make some new big swaddling blankets, I want to make cloth wipes–just things like that. I want to do all of these things now because I’m a list person and I like getting things accomplished. But at the same time, I feel like if I check off all those boxes, it means that the baby will be so much closer to arriving and I’m not 100% sure that I’m ready for baby to be here.

Mostly, pregnancy hormones seem to be making me run around in circles again. Overall, we’re thrilled about the baby’s upcoming birth, but there are some ambient fears that I think are pretty common in pregnancy. I remember feeling similar feelings towards the end with my pregnancy with Ruby. Did we really think through this whole “let’s have a baby” thing? Will my labor be ok? Will it hurt more this time? Will there be any complications? How will I sleep when the baby comes, since I will have two kids? What if the baby ends up in the NICU, like Ruby did? (Fortunately we are insured this time!) These fears aren’t a focus for me by any means, but sometimes out of the blue a small worry will pop up, and I will chew it around for a little bit. But then I remind myself that, as my dad says, it’s not the things you worry about that tend to go wrong. Things will be all right, and whatever problems that inevitably arise will be survivable, just like all of the problems that arose with Ruby have turned out to be. And whether or not we really thought through this whole having a second child business, this baby will end up being a beautiful addition to our family. Just like Ruby is.

Sleep Cycles

As Ruby emits the last, whimpering protests to her nap and succumbs to sleep, I heave a sigh of relief. Our church schedule recently changed from 11 am-2 pm, which is right smack dab over Ruby’s nap time. It caused a short nap and a cranky baby on Sunday. Combine that with the fact that on Monday Ruby refused wholesale to nap, and this week got off to a rough start. Sleep has always been hard for Ruby for some reason, and being sleep deprived seems to make her sleep worse. On Sunday night she started waking up in the middle of the night again, and all her naps this week were way too short.

Yesterday, as I put Ruby down for a nap, I offered up a prayer that she would take a long enough nap, and get back to her regular sleep schedule, and finally, for the first time this week, she took a longer nap. It still wasn’t quite up to how long she usually naps, but it was a great improvement. And last night she slept through the night again.

It’s incredible what a difference sleep makes to a person, and that difference seems magnified in a toddler who doesn’t yet have the skills to cope with sleeping poorly. All she can really do in response to being tired is crank, and it makes it hard on her and everyone around her.

It was also a testament to me of the power of prayer. I feel that my simple, if very heartfelt, prayer for Ruby to sleep better yesterday was heard and answered. It touches me that God cares about me and my sweet baby, even for something as small as naps and good sleep.

Fancy Dancy Schmancy

Sorry for the radio silence lately. At first Kyle was borrowing my computer for 12 hours a day, and then my computer up and died on us. Fortunately for me, Kyle graciously donated some of the money he got for Christmas to help me fund a brand new fancy dancy schmancy laptop specifically so that I could keep up with my writing. Hooray! It’s a Chromebook 14, and I just opened it today, with some “help” from tiny hands. There might have been some celebratory keyboard mashing by said helping hands.

Oh, and that marketing thing about how fast Chromebooks turn on? Totally true. My old laptop had been on its last legs for a while, and it took about 10 minutes to boot up, so this whole less than 10 second booting up thing has kind of been making my day. It’s nice to have a computer free of all the other odd quirks that my computer had accumulated over nearly five years of daily use. I’m sure this computer will develop its own quirks, but in the meantime it’s shiny and new and I love it.

So here’s to more writing, and a new computer. It’s my new favorite thing.