This past year was a persistent test on my limits: The third trimester of pregnancy; childbirth; colicky baby; stay-at-home mama for five months; transition to working mama; hubby at home to help me out; hubby working on base (and away from home) for a week or two at a time - this list could be endless. I have never known another point in my life where there was so much change in such a short period of time, and there were many moments where I had to quit thinking, pick up the extra coffee, and sprint the last half of the"marathon".
I can't remember a year so complex and overwhelming.
I know there's probably a negative connotation to that, but I don't necessarily mean it that way.
Was it stressful and taxing? Absolutely. In fact, I'm pretty sure that these bags under my eyes are a permanent thing now, and I may or may not have already plucked a gray hair from my scalp.
But everything about this year was inexplicably beautiful.
I learned how to find true joy in the moments where you feel the most overwhelmed.
Baptizing my daughter was such an important moment for me - something that I, truthfully, thought about from the moment I realized I was pregnant. The first half of the Mass went well, with our Curious Georgette enjoying the music and reading books with her daddy. And then...the moment where the priest walked down the aisle towards the baptismal font. As the congregation began to profess the faith, my daughter began to protest. No, she began to howl, as if to say "Wait, you want me to believe what?! And you're telling me I get no say in this?!!" At the point where we reject Satan in the creed, her screeches became so overwhelmingly loud that the priest paused and asked the congregation to speak up so he could hear them all over the baby.
My heart started to flutter. I began to panic. I could feel the heat in my face as tears started to well up in my eyes...
And then I looked at my husband, who was holding what could only be described as a thrashing ostrich in a precious white gown...and we just started laughing. We laughed from the moment that the priest poured the warm water over our daughter's head (which she vehemently told us she was against), to the point where her forehead was annointed with oil (well, somewhat annointed - she was tossing her head from side to side so vigorously to avoid any kind of priestly blessing that I don't really know how much she received).
I mean, truthfully, what can you do? You laugh, you shake your head, and you move on. My daughter has an incredibly strong personality, and all I could do at that moment was thank God for giving me the opportunity to raise this vocal baby into a strong, smart, independent woman. I find myself doing that an awful lot. Prayers from me come moreso from the glider in my daughter's room than from a church pew...
I learned how to breakdown and rebuild in a matter of minutes.
A good friend of mine once told me that her car was her chapel, and I never fully understood it until this year. My car became my sanctuary, and quick runs to Meijer would allow me the opportunity to jump-start my spirit in a baby-free zone. I could allow myself to sob for no reason other than I was exhausted and simply didn't understand how I was still functioning. I could scream at my steering wheel, not because I was mad at a particular person, or angry with my situation in life, but because I didn't know how else to vocalize the pure, unadulterated frustration that comes from not being able to soothe your colicky baby. The steady hum of a Focus at 50 miles an hour allowed me to breathe, to not-so-patiently ask God to cut us just the tiniest bit of slack so we could feel like ourselves again, and to pick up my phone and call a friend. All in all, I would find that a twenty minute trip could make me into a new-ish woman, and I would be ready to come back into my home and start fresh.
I learned to prioritize.
I used to truthfully hate when people told me that I would "never understand exhaustion until I had kids." (Might I add, I don't use the word "hate" lightly.) Whenever individuals would utter that phrase, regardless of how good or bad their intentions were, it would make my ears burn with anger. The honest to God fact is the physical exhaustion that I felt as a graduate student working three jobs is no different than what I feel when I plop down on the couch after I get my daughter to bed. I still don't move for a half hour, I still watch something mindless on TV until I can feel my toes again, and I still have a bottle of "emergency wine" in my fridge at all times.
Now, the emotional exhaustion - that's different. I will grant that to all of those people who tried to put me in my "young and naive" place, because there is a gargantuan difference between the life practice of prioritization for efficiency and mommy-hood prioritization. At the end of the day two to three years ago, I still had dishes to do and laundry to fold - and I had to bribe myself to get up and keep moving for just another hour more. Nowadays, though, I sometimes feel like if I have to wash one more bottle, I may throw-up.
The only difference is the complete lack of "me time". Before, I could sneak in a moment here and there to go outside and read a book, or drive around for an extra fifteen minutes to listen to the radio before I went into my next job. It was a few moments to recharge my batteries. Now, the batteries have to be recharged at night.
So, I re-learned how to prioritize - again. I'm not as efficient as I used to be. I leave the house later than I want to, and there is always (always) something that can be cleaned in my house. I have taught myself to understand that no one really cares if there are dishes in the sink and if there are toys on the floor (and if they do, well, fudge 'em). I have no desire to be Martha Stewart. I would much rather play peekaboo for hours, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar a couple more times, and steal a few sips of my husband's beer when he's not looking at the end of the night. I'll keep my house a bit more cluttered if it means I can find more reasons to laugh and be truly ready for the next day.
"A year of transition" is clearly an understatement. I'm truly ready to see what this next year holds for me and my little family.
So, 2014 - I've got coffee in my mug, make-up on my tired eyelids, and a sweater draped over my shoulders in a superhero cape-like fashion.