Thursday, May 17, 2018

Quantum Spiritual Leap - Saying Goodbye

“How Lucky I am to have something that makes 
saying goodbye so hard.” Winnie the Pooh

21 years ago, while at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was on a third date with a very big man. He was a 6’5, 300 lb football player who had “been around the block” and was wearing FUBU sweats. His intensity was high, his pauses were long, and his desire to find the meaning of life was deep.  I was wearing Ann Taylor shorts and Birkenstocks and at one point he said, “We should dance.” Even though there was no dance floor and no one else dancing, we got up and swayed around a bit.  Then he went to the bathroom.  While he was gone, some guys I knew at the bar jokingly commented to me, “You two look like Beauty and the Beast.” 

When Nate came back I nervously told him what they said.  I didn't know what he would do. He paused, gave me a big hug, and whispered in my ear “Don’t you ever let someone call you Beast again.”

I was 19 and I fell in love with him that night. 

Fast forward a lifetime of amazing memories and 2 phenomenal kids.  We had just gotten to the good part of life.  The ‘sweet spot’ of parenting.  The kids were old enough to get dressed and stay home alone…but too young to be into sex and drugs.  Our careers were good, we loved our home, and we had a great community.  We had made it…

Last summer, an opportunity to go on a spiritual retreat in Jamaica with one of my best friends Tobie had come up.  Tobie is married to Tony Gonzalez and the four of us (mostly Nate and Tony) had all been working on becoming the best versions of ourselves.  When together, Tobie and I mostly laughed while Nate and Tony tried to fix the worlds problems.  We had all recently read the book “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakhaini and it had rocked our worlds.  The retreat was a continuation of that book and our journey. 

On November 8th, I got on a plane and headed 4,000 miles away to a retreat in Jamaica that would be some of the best days I have had in my life.  I was fully immersed, living in the moment, and learning so much.  And then on the last day, I actually experienced the worst day of my life…. the irony of it all is not lost on me.

It was late morning on Saturday, November 11th.  I had just finished a glorious swim in the ocean and could literally feel the Divine around me.  As I toweled off, I knew I was changed…and I couldn’t wait to share it with Nate.   About an hour later I got a text from Nate’s best friend saying, “Call us ASAP.”   Once I reached my best friend she calmly said, “Don’t freak out, everything is fine, but Nate fell while at the trampoline park with the kids.  We don’t have any details but he is on the way to the hospital and your mom is meeting him there.”  I can’t explain why or how but I knew on some deep level that nothing was fine and that my husband was dead. 

Time shifted into a dream like state and my only focus was getting home.  While still in my bathing suit and flip flops, I threw my clothes in a bag, got in a taxi and headed to the airport.  I had no ticket, no idea if there was a flight, and no idea what the hell I was doing.  While in the taxi, on a bumpy Jamaican road, I answered my phone and it was my mom. “Oh Sweetie, the doctor wants to speak with you.”  The connection was horrible but the message was clear “I am so sorry, we tried everything, we did CPR for 50 minutes because we could feel his soul trying to come back. But in the end, he didn’t make it.  He passed of a massive heart attack.”  

My healthy, gifted, amazing, Super Bowl Champion, lover of ALL people, husband and father to our 9 and 12 year old kids had died at the age of 42.  

Most days it still feels like a dream.  For a long time, I actually felt like I was in a movie, especially at the Memorial.  I literally felt like I was playing the role of the grieving widow and my kids were crushing the parts of children who had lost their Dad.  Surreal is the only way to describe it. 

Early on though, through all the chaos and crying, sadness and shock, I also experienced a strange level of peace and acceptance.  It’s like I had been waiting for this ‘big’ thing to happen all my life and it finally did. I had hoped it might be hosting the Oscars or being on Oprah...widowed at 40 with two kids was not on my radar. 

When someone you love suddenly dies, you look for relief in every nook and cranny of your life.  You have an insatiable desire to understand WHY this happened. Your brain, and its old neuro pathways, simply can’t accept that the person is gone.  You feel them, smell them, miss them, and yearn for them in ways that are hard to describe. You feel like your life is over…and in many ways it is.  The finality of never seeing that person again is something that is impossible to comprehend.  To this day, I still sometimes think he may just walk in the house, kiss me and say “Sorry about that.”  

I miss the story of our life…the whole “we met in college, white picket fence (broken gate), best friends married to best friends, love our kids” story.  Sometimes it makes me so sad, and sometimes I get mad…mostly at Nate, for being dead.  I feel like everywhere we go there are Dads and Husbands walking around, hearts beating, lungs pumping, brains firing…its very rude and annoying.  Did I mention that he died at a Sky Zone Trampoline park, during Toddler time, in front of my kids???  Who dies at Sky Zone??? Of course every adult wants to die when they walk into a Chucky Cheese or a Trampoline park, but ONLY Nate would have gone through with it.   The whole thing is so ridiculous, unbelievable. and over the top, that it reminds me of something Nate would do…And on good days, that makes me laugh. 

At some point, I got tired of feeling awful and decided to look at this experience and grief in a totally different way.  At times I can tell it makes people nervous.  They don’t understand how I can be filled with so much joy and gratitude yet also be experiencing such sadness.  I am fully aware that I didn’t have a choice in losing him, but I do have a choice in how I experience this new reality and I am determined to handle it with great care and dedication. 

When the reset button gets pressed on your life, whether by choice or circumstance, you have so many decisions to make.  But there is one decision that will shape your entire experience moving forward.  You can either lean in and accept, or resist and deny.  Both are valid choices but one just comes with more peace. 

I am at peace because I choose to believe Nate would not have left us if we weren’t ready…it just wasn’t his style.  I’m at peace because I choose to believe he is happy and that he had a part in this decision to leave.  I believe where he is now is SO grand, SO amazing and SO big that I can’t really comprehend it.  Call it Heaven, the Afterlife, another realm, or the Divine….basically, he loves it there. What a relief!  I choose to believe when he arrived he took a deep breathe, gave some Angels slightly inappropriate hugs and screamed “Hallelujah, I’m home!”  

Watching my kids move through this loss is painful and humbling AND inspiring and amazing. The best parenting advice I have ever received came from them.  When I asked my kids what they needed from me to get through this, they simply said “If you’re ok, we’re ok.” That mantra has become my North Star.   

We make a choice not to hide from the pain, we don’t try to be “happy” and we don’t pretend its always ok.  We lean into the waves of grief, we pray for help, we pray for others and we stay grateful.  We send the love we were given back out into the world, and we focus on what we have instead of what we lost.  We cuss, we scream and we break plates into the trash.  We talk about Nate, we dance, we have fun, we spend time with friends,  and we laugh a lot.  All of that helps in so many ways.

We don’t feel his presence yet but we're still hopeful.  If you knew Nate, you understand he was a very slow mover…we assume his spirit is just taking its sweet time.  The good news is that we see lots of signs.   He sends them through birds and grasshoppers and old school hip hop….I’ve heard Rappers Delight 42 times since he died.  The Super Bowl commercial with Eli Manning dancing to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack was some of his best work.  Ten days before he died, Nate and I had gone to a Halloween party as Johnny and Baby. We performed (horribly) the exact dance and exact lift that they did on the commercial.  It’s so amazing it makes me smile.

Through all of this, I am certain about one thing:  The process of grief and enduring epic loss is one of the hardest, saddest, AND most amazing situations a human being can find themselves in.  It breaks you open, it changes you and it brings you to the core of your being.  You begin to ask the big questions like “Why are we here?” and “What is my purpose?” and “How can I make this life worth living”.  This is the good stuff, the questions that get forgotten as we muscle through the day to day bustle of life, kids, marriage and careers.  Death forces you to stop and look around.  It opens you up to your pain and all the pain in the world.  You feel connected to people in ways you didn’t before. And if you so desire, it invites you to become more of everything good in this world.  More grateful, more aware, more compassionate, and ultimately more prepared to give the world everything it needs from you.

I wouldn't trade one minute with that man for anything, and if this is the path he/we were on, then I simply say “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I am confident we will not only survive but we will thrive.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Call Me Maybe: Reasons I Love Staying Home and Why I Need to Go Back To Work

There are a few reasons I am concerned.  First, I have now watched the Harvard Baseball team sing Call Me Maybe on YouTube at least thirty times.  After watching the video, I have spent endless hours thinking about how I could recreate the video with my own family in our minivan.  I have looked through hundreds of random summer 2012 photo albums on Facebook, reviewed Pinterest items, and followed the Sandusky case way too closely.  I have taken yoga, gone for walks, played with my kids, and cleaned my house. 
Now, after 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days at home, it is clear to me that soon it will be time to go back to work. 
There are a lot of things I find amazing about staying home.  I love spending time with my kids without being stressed and having the freedom to do whatever I want each day. But I am also amazed at how long the days seem.  When you are working, the days fly by.  It feels as if you drop your kids off at school or childcare and then suddenly it is 5:30 and you are late to pick them up.  From the moment your morning starts, it is a never-ending race.  Between conference calls, emails, and permission slips, the day doesn’t seem to have enough hours in it.  When I was working there were many times I didn’t look up until 3pm and realize all I had eaten that day was a large coffee and a piece of gum.
The experience of being home is exactly the opposite.  To begin, I have never forgotten to eat. By the time 11am comes around I have already had 10 bowls of goldfish, six chicken nuggets, a frozen waffle and one rainbow Popsicle.  Many days I look at the clock and say, “This is impossible!  There is NO way it is only 11am!”  The reason it is impossible is because I have already done the following things:  mopped the floor, packed lunches, played with Barbie’s, pretended to finger paint, made a snowman out of play dough, watched my daughter’s birth video, cleaned out the linen closet, bought hair replacement shampoo for my husband, and ordered two new dresses on  How is it possible that I still have 9 hours to go?
As much as I have loved my time with them, I realize that when they start school in September, I will need something more. This is something that I have come to realize after much thought, prayer, and cocktails.  When I first quit my work in the medical field, I wasn’t sure if I would want to go back.  But now, after some time off and a break from the sound of a Blackberry, I know that eventually I will want to work again.  The only issue right now is that I have no idea what I want to do.
Well, that isn’t exactly true. I know what I want to do, but I just haven’t found it yet.  It’s really pretty simple, and I have great hope that it will be here soon.  I want a job that fits the following criteria below:
1.     I want to work part-time and make lots of money.
2.     I want a job that requires me to stay in hotel a few times a year.  Alone…in a place that doesn’t have any Disney Characters.  I want to order room service, watch The Notebook, and sleep in the middle of the  
3.     I want a job that doesn’t force me to miss anything important that involves my kids…but keeps me busy enough that I have an excuse to miss PTA meetings.
4.     I want to work with smart people that encourage me, challenge me, and make me laugh…and are older than seven years old. (at least chronologically)
5.     I want there to be enough face-to-face meetings that I have to wash my hair at least three times a week…and enough time working from home that the other days it can be in a dirty bun.
6.     I want great benefits that allow me to take my kid to the doctor without saying, “Are you sure it really hurts?  Our deductible is pretty high…”
7.     I want to have enough work that I have great childcare, but not so much that I miss bath or bedtime.
8.     I want a maid that comes weekly and somehow makes the never-ending pile of laundry disappear. 
9.     I want to make enough money that when I fly to Europe, first class is an option.  These days being able to lie down is very important.
10.  When a high school friend calls and says, “I miss you! Let’s meet in Chicago, Paris, or Daytona!”, I want the flexibility to jump on a plane the next week…even if she chooses Daytona.   
11.  I want to develop a few friendships that endure outside of the office…that means a few friends that I wouldn’t hide from in Target…on a Tuesday…at 10am.
12.  I want enough time to help out in my kid’s classrooms but not so much that become overly proficient with glue sticks or paper mache. 
13.   I want a job that makes my marriage stronger and doesn’t encourage us to go back to our favorite game called “keeping score.” (Not that anyone is counting but I am winning.)   
14.  I want to have two cars:  a minivan and a black stick shift BMW.
15.  I want a boss that understands that being a mother is way more important than any job… and a family that understands that having a job is very important to their mother.
Today I looked on and didn’t see anything quite yet.  I'm not worried...I will look again tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Piggyback Therapy: It's Not About the Sauce

My husband and I have a great marriage.  We laugh, we fight, and instead of make up sex, we give each other high fives.  In general, we both truly enjoy each other’s company…and we both also love being apart.  We love getting in bed together at night, and we treasure sleeping in separate beds when we go on vacation.  Overall, we are doing pretty well…but there is always room for improvement…or a few sessions of marriage therapy.

Unfortunately, these days we don’t have much time to spend on counseling. Between work, the kids and our raging social life (which consists of bouncy house birthday parties and baseball games), we just haven’t had the time.  The irony is that even though we have no time for therapy, we somehow still manage to find plenty of time to have arguments…about the same thing…over and over and over again.
So what’s a couple to do when they don’t have the time, money or inclination to go to therapy? 
The solution is Piggyback Therapy...
Piggyback therapy is a new concept that my husband and I experienced a few weeks ago.  We were in the midst of one of our classic arguments…the details aren’t important but the main point is that he thought I was acting like a crazy Bitch and I was convinced he was missing something in his brain, like a whole section.  Overall, this tends to be the recurring theme in our marriage.
We had planned on going out to dinner alone, but knowing that the experience would be a nightmare, we asked our friends to join.  The reason we invited this particular couple is that they are great friends and we love being with them...but in the end, the best part about them was that they were currently in marriage therapy. 
It turns out that having friends with great insurance (low deductible + generous mental health coverage), flexible jobs, and some deep unresolved issues is a wonderful benefit. The idea is that you go to dinner with them, have lots of cocktails, and eventually spill all the details of your marital problems.  As everyone gets drunk, they begin to analyze your relationship with brutal honesty.  Based on what they have learned in their own extensive relationship therapy, they then try to figure what the hell is wrong with yours. 
That night, we explained our argument to our friends. This particular fight had to do with my husband messing up my kitchen while making his famous “sauce.”  Every time he makes his “sauce” we get into a huge fight.  The fact that he uses every plate, pan, and utensil in our kitchen while simultaneously spraying red sauce on every appliance, wall and electrical outlet is just the beginning.  While he cooks, he BLARES Frank Sinatra, sweats profusely, and either under cooks or over cooks the meatballs (it can go either way.)  In my world of low grade OCD and neurotic cleaning habits, the sauce is my worst nightmare. 
As my friends listened to our problems, I could tell they were feeling very confident about their counseling skills.  Although they had only been to four sessions, which had barely scratched the surface of their deep-rooted problems, they had suddenly become experts on marriage and conflict resolution.  The truth is…they were good.  If it weren’t for the fact that we were in a bar with loud music, basketball games, and a transgender sitting behind me, I would have thought we were in a real therapy session.  The chairs were comfortable, my husband and I weren’t speaking, and there were tissues nearby.  It reminded me of all the good things about therapy minus the $150 and one-hour limit.   Here is a small excerpt from the night:
Friend/Therapist: So every time he makes this sauce you get mad?
Me: Yes...I want to kill him.
Friend/Therapist: I hear you are angry with him…but how do you FEEL when he makes the sauce?
Me:  I feel anxious and overwhelmed…and like I want to kill him.  I hate the mess he makes and how he blares Frank Sinatra so loud.
Husband: (voice rising in disbelief) WHO in the world doesn’t like Frank Sinatra?
Friend/Therapist:  (to Sinatra loving husband) It is not your time to share yet.  Kelsey, is there a time in your childhood when you felt anxious?
Kelsey:  (mentally blaming her parents for all her current problems) Yes…the entire time. 
Friend/Therapist:  So when he makes the sauce you feel anxious and overwhelmed, which then reminds you of how you felt as a child?
Kelsey:  Yes
Friend/Therapist: Kelsey, I think I have your answer.  “It’s not about the sauce.”
He was right!  It wasn’t about the sauce…it was about so much more!  Our friend was a genius and I was beginning to feel relieved.  We were making progress and I knew the solution was right around the corner.
Kelsey (extremely hopeful):  So what do we do about it?
Friend/Therapist:  I have no idea.  We haven’t gotten to that part yet…
I took a sip of my drink, sighed, and realized that piggyback therapy can only take you so far.   We had come to the end of the road and they had nothing else to give.  We had bared our souls, told all our secrets, and had way too much to drink.  Even though we left with no idea what to do next, I still believe our first session went very well. 
In the meantime, we decided it would be best to avoid the sauce and Sinatra...So far it has been a few days of wedded bliss…

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: Key Takeaways about Soft Porn Novels

I have always been into books.  I love them for so many reasons.

I have not always been into porn.  I dislike it for a few simple reasons.

Here is my problem with porn.  I want more than the Internet videos or pricey On Demand rentals provide.  I need to understand how and why the semi-hot, yet always greasy handyman ends up with the lonely housewife.  I want to know what makes them strip down and jump in the shower without caring about being a little overweight or not having time to self tan.   And most importantly, I want to understand how all this happened ten minutes after he walked in to help her fix her washer and dryer. I need more back story, more character development, and less sexual positions.  

When I heard about Fifty Shades of Grey, I had high hopes. Maybe this novel would somehow combine my love of reading with a new appreciation for soft porn and bondage fantasies.
After hearing all the buzz about Fifty Shades of Grey, I wanted to find out for myself what everyone was getting so worked up about.  If women all across America were reading this in the carpool lane, I didn’t want to be left out.  I may not volunteer to be a room parent but I’ll be damned if everyone is talking about their new hot sex life and I have nothing to share. 
Most importantly, after ten years of martial bliss, I thought reading this book wouldn’t hurt.  If it could spice up our already out of this world sex life (by out of this world I mean enjoyable, predictable, and very quick), then I was all for it.
So I read the book.  I had a love/hate relationship with the entire experience.  Her writing is redundant, annoying and elementary.  The sex scenes all begin to meld into one long, strange, slightly uncomfortable scene.  How many times can a person kiss you passionately, grab your ponytail, and say things like "I think you need to be spanked" or "Oh, you want a shower?  You give me no choice but to join you!" before you start to get annoyed? I hate when my kids pull my hair, so I assume I would hate it if some rich, controlling man did it also.  In terms of showering, this is something I usually like to do by myself...who really wants to share the hot water?  And lastly, she always seemed to be wearing the same outfits...for some reason the fact that she kept rotating the same three dresses really got on my nerves. 

But did that stop me from reading it?  Not even close...

No I, like many others, became obsessed.  I would read when I woke up, when the kids were watching a show, while cooking dinner and before I went to bed.  I became so fascinated by the whole thing that there were many times I didn't hear my kids yell for me or ask me for a snack.  I became a mother removed from her own suburban life and it made me uncomfortable.  

Maybe it was because the lead woman is a mousy, inexperienced girl who somehow finds herself in this very illicit situation.  Maybe I saw myself in her...both in terms of the mousiness (sp?) and the inexperience.  Who knows?  All I know is that I kept reading, kept trying to understand, and eventually ended the first book feeling the same way I did in the beginning...slightly empty and confused. 

But I did learn some important things.

In honor of my Thursday Thoughts for this week, these are the things I have learned from Fifty Shades of Grey.
1.     If my husband ever spanked or hit me, once or eighteen times, with or without a contract, I would leave him that day… and take him for everything he owns. 
2.     I have been searching for my inner goddess that does scissor kicks and cartwheels whenever she gets excited…unfortunately, I can’t find her anywhere.
3.     The whole dominatrix lifestyle is nothing new.  Letting someone have kinky sex with you and then accepting money, new cars, or gifts is called prostitution…. or being with Tiger Woods…or marrying up.  However you want to look at it...
4.     Okay, I know what I said in number one…but if my husband had a helicopter that flew us to dinner a few times a month, I may tolerate a little smack on the bottom every now and then.
5.     If a man showed me a “Red Room of Pain” on our second date, I would probably consider that a red flag.  Maybe I need to loosen up a bit…
6.     I firmly believe that anyone who wants to be hit in their private parts with a leather whip has some degree of mental problems.
7.     The only way I would say, “Yes sir” to a man is if he was my elder or has some very high-ranking job in the military. 
8.     I don’t see anything wrong with the missionary position.  It has been working for married couples for hundreds of years. 
9.     It is ironic to me that the lead character in the book is named Christian.
10.  If my parents had named me Anastasia Steele, I think I would have had a better chance of being wild in bed.
11.  Please do not make this book into a movie.  Everyone has their own Christian Grey…and most do not look like Zac Efron.  Do not ruin our dreams just to make money.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Things I Learned on Vacation

1.     A vacation with two kids for 14 days is very similar to being home for 14 days…the only difference is that you cook, clean, and break up fights in a different house…and the kids eat way more junk food…and sleep a lot less…Awesome.
2.     In Florida you can drive your car onto the beach.  It is so wrong…and so right…in so many ways.
3.     In the south, mothers and daughters still wear matching outfits.  As a matter of fact during Easter, it is encouraged.  My only concern is that if you are 35 and your daughter is 3, there is a good chance you don’t look good in the same thing.
4.     Watching my kids run into their dad’s arms at the airport almost made up for the fact that when we arrived home there was no milk or food in our refrigerator.
5.     In the South “He has risen” means something about Jesus Christ, in LA it means something about Ryan Seacrest.
6.     Going out to a bar and spending the night dancing with your girlfriends from high school makes you smile. Realizing you are now the older women in the bar who you used to feel sorry for makes you cry.
7.     I will never understand why people make their little boys wear gingham jumpers with monograms or sailboats on them. 
8.     Going on vacation without your husband is never a good idea.  When we got home he kept saying, “Are they always this loud?”
9.     When I got home from our trip, I opened up the dishwasher and found the entire thing empty, except for two wine glasses and four small shot glasses.  Suspicious to say the least…
10.  When your husband says he cleaned the house while you were gone, make sure you understand exactly what that means: (please refer to below conversation)
Husband:  “Honey, you will be so happy.  I cleaned the whole house!” 
Me:  “Thank you so much!  That means a lot to me.  Did you by chance change our sheets?” 
Husband: “No…that is the one thing I didn’t do.  Sorry”
Me:  “No worries, I was just asking.  Thanks for cleaning up.  Did you get a chance to mop the kitchen?  It was so dirty when we left.”
Husband:  “Oh gosh, I forgot to mop.”
Me:  “Did you vacuum?”
Husband:  “Didn’t have a chance to do that either.”
Me:  “Any chance you dusted or swept?”
Husband: “Nope…”
Me: “Babe, what did you do?
Husband: “I cleaned the bathroom…and let me tell you, that was a nightmare!  It took me almost two hours.  It was so dirty.  I don’t know how you do that every month.”
Me:  “I do it every four days.”
Husband: “Wow, that doesn’t sound like fun.  Have a great trip!”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Spring Break in Florida

Along with my usual long, yet hopefully entertaining blog posts, I am going to start a weekly list of things I know to be true. Consider them deep thoughts by Kelsey…or random comments from a girl you don’t know…

Things I Know about Going Home to Florida for Spring Break:

1. Tan fat is better than white fat…I have used over 15 self tanning towelettes in the past 2 days and things are looking up.

2. No matter how old you are, when you head to Florida for spring break, something in you wants to hit Daytona Beach, ride a motorcycle, and French kiss someone you don’t know. Unfortunately, at this point in life, none of the above are very good ideas.

3. Traveling with two kids for 5 hours on a plane can quickly ruin the dream that spring beak could ever be as fun as it was in 1995.

4. The idea of spending a week at the beach feeling young and carefree while getting a tan is replaced by the reality that you are old, tired, and filled with pre-cancerous basal cell melanomas all over your skin.

5. Taking your kids home to spend time with your family is amazing. Finding out three days before the trip that your son has pneumonia and daughter has a bad ear infection…not so amazing.

6. Leaving your husband behind because he has to work is really hard. Knowing that he has never been happier about being left behind is even harder.

7. Choosing outfits that show you are a better version of yourself than when you were in high school can be exciting…realizing it’s no use because most of your clothes are still from high school can be upsetting.

8. Getting off the plane and stepping outside into the Florida heat reminds me I am home. Looking at what it does to my hair reminds me of why I moved away.

9. Disney is not the happiest place on Earth. Not. At. All.

10. Needing to stay over and share a bed with a best friend because you have had too much to drink reminds you of being a teenager. Having her kids climb in bed with you at 6 a.m. reminds you that you that those days are long gone.

11. Being with your friends from childhood is the best part about going home. When you look around at your friends, you are continually amazed that even though everyone’s parents were crazy, almost all of you turned out okay…It gives you hope for your own children.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Purgatory in the Land of Motherhood

I don’t fit in anywhere…

It’s reminding me of middle school during lunch…

In the past few months, I have found myself is some strange type of motherhood purgatory. I am currently stuck in the ‘in between’ world of stay at home moms and working mothers…and I don’t seem to belong to either.

Ever since quitting my job to pursue my ‘real passion’, I feel a lot of gratitude and happiness. But in between those moments, there are some days when I feel a bit lost. Here is what I am struggling with…

A mom from my son’s class recently asked me if I wanted to help her wash lettuce from the school Garden for a couple of hours. I just stared at her like she was crazy. Why are we washing the lettuce? Shouldn’t that be something the kids learn to do? If we are teaching them to be farmers in a 4x4 clearly non-organic garden, don’t they need to know how to harvest and clean their own crops? I knew at that moment I would never fit in with the overzealous, always smiling but a little stressed out, stay at home moms. Earlier last month, I had showed up at the end of my daughter’s preschool Valentine’s Day party and one of the mothers said, “Oh, I can’t believe you didn’t help with the party. I thought since you were staying home you would be getting more involved?” Nope, no Valentines day party set up and no cleaning the semi-organic lettuce.

When I see the stay at home moms in the carpool lane, dressed in Lulu lemon sweats driving Honda Odysseys or Toyota Sienna’s (I have the Sienna but my work out clothes are from Old Navy), they look so serious. Each time I ask them how they are doing, they always say, in a very peppy, yet exhausted voice, “A bit crazy…as usual! But aren’t we all!” No, I’m not…should I be? Would it be wrong to tell them while they were hanging up red Valentine’s Day hearts and passing out tootsie rolls, I was at home reading my Kindle and taking a nap?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the parents that are always helping out…our kids and teachers need all the support they can get. Honestly, they are better people than me. But I have now realized that in one seemingly innocent agreement to help chaperone a trip to the museum, you can quickly be convinced/pressured to be present and involved in all room parties, fundraisers and fall festivals. I have a great fear of being swallowed up by my son’s elementary school, so for now, I am going to take it easy.

After my brief time as a stay at home, I am convinced that we have a nationwide problem of women who are overcommitted. Didn’t most of us choose to stay home because we wanted more time and freedom to do what we wanted? I know myself well, and because the fact that being responsible for bringing snacks to my son’s little league team after their game makes me nervous, I am very clear that I must choose my involvement carefully.

Unfortunately, I have nothing in common with the working mom’s anymore either. When I see my old working mom friends, they always seemed to be stressed out, walking while on conference calls, or typing away on their computers at Starbucks. When I ask them if they can do something, the answer is always no. “I would love to but my boss has me working on this project and I will probably KILL him before it is over.” I remember those days well. They tend to be well dressed, smelling good, and overall put together. Yet beneath their ironed shirts and stiletto heels, it looks like their heads might explode. They come running in late or sneaking out early to school presentations and I feel their pain. When you are working full time and have small kids, a lot of days you feel like you are barely hanging on. Personally, I still have PTSD from my last three months at my job…every time I hear a blackberry ring, my stomach tightens up and I think I might get sick. When these moms see me, they always ask me how my new life is going. I tell them, “So far so good” and they look amused. They smile and say things like, “Really? That’s great! It is so good that you get to be with them. I love my kids but I could NEVER stay home! They would drive me crazy!” I tell them they do drive me crazy but because I am with them so much, I no longer have the need to constantly talk or engage with them. It’s wonderful…as a matter of fact I have gone days without saying much to my two little ones…you won’t believe the things they have painted and built while I left them alone.

Right now, I don’t work outside the home and I haven’t gotten into volunteering yet. (I am VERY clear it is a great privelage to even have this choice and MOST women in this world do not have this luxury.) But where does that leave me as a mom? Does that mean I am super lazy or super smart? The truth is after I drop my kids off at school (my daughter only goes three days for three hours so don’t get too jealous), I really don’t know what to do next. Yes, there is all the typical stuff that I can always do. The laundry, the cable people, the cell phone bill, the drain won’t drain, the Internet search for a new career, Facebook research, mopping the floor, and of course the groceries. But for some reason, it seems to be that the exact moment I come home is the same time that the morning sun shines into my house in a special way. At that moment, two things are very obvious. First, every dirty window, nasty floor and piled up dust ball is immediately glistening in the morning light. Second, as I pass a mirror, that same sunlight also magically highlights every dark, stray hair on my face. Therefore, whatever plans I originally had are now immediately replaced with a tweezing and cleaning marathon. I have tweezers in one hand and a swifter in the other and the rest is history. Before you know it, my free time is up and it is time to go get the animals from school.

I didn’t think it was going to be like this. In my mind, I was to spend my time home writing great articles, insightful blogs, and possibly award winning screenplays. In terms of my kids, they were going to grow and improve in every area. I had great plans to enroll them in educational summer camps, piano lessons, and Japanese immersion classes. We were going to laugh together, tell stories about our days, and become the happiest family on earth. When I wasn’t writing, I was going to research the best place to buy kids shoes that support their arches, go on nature hikes around our 6x12 backyard, and make homemade everything. I had so much to do in so little time and I needed to get moving.

But then I just got tired.

I have found myself taking naps and reading a lot. My kids are wearing the same Target shoes from before and I am sure they don’t support their arches. When I sit down to write, nothing comes in my head except the word “relax.” As I read mom blogs with titles like “People I Want to Punch in the Throat” and “Mommy Needs a Drink”, I realize I am not the only one that needs to chill out. What has happened to all of us? Why are we are flying around our lives in a state of low-grade hysteria? How did we get here and how the hell do we make it stop? I know that for the first time in history, many women (not all, most don’t have a choice) have the opportunity to work, stay home, do both or do neither, and yet we are more stressed out, depressed and unfulfilled than ever before? What if we all took a collective breathe and realized we don’t have to do it like this anymore?

There is a scene in the movie American Beauty where the husband and wife (who currently hate each other yet have a rare moment of attraction to one another…sound familiar?) started to make out. Right as they begin kissing, she suddenly stops him because she doesn’t want to mess up the pillows on her Italian couch. My husband always tells me that I was that woman the last couple of years...not exactly the type of fun, warm person you dream of growing old with.

So, I have come up with a new plan. I am going to stay in purgatory for a while and just chill out. I am not going to do much of anything…not much volunteering, not much worrying, and not much working. For the first time in my life, I am going to try to enjoy the moment and get a grip on my anxiety, stress, and need to achieve. My kids are going to be under-scheduled and I am going to shower more. I am going to be more joyful and less judgmental. I am going to be aware of my addiction to Facebook, cheese, and white processed bread. I am going to try to have sex with my husband without rolling my eyes or saying things like “Now? Are you crazy?” I am going to yell at my kid less and put us all in time out more. I am going to go to church, go on walks, and pray everyday. This is going to be my non-traveling, suburban version of Eat, Pray, Love…

And if none of that works, I am going to become an expert on Groupon. Either way, it is going to be great…