Thursday, June 12, 2014

Choosing Real Life

Exactly one year ago, we spent one long, exhausting, sweaty, emotional day putting the whole of our life into a huge truck and saying goodbye to home in NC. We left with the deep hope of returning in just a few short years, with the uncertainties of life and new relationships in an entirely different part of the country in front of us and with the knowledge that surely we'd be able to keep in touch with these amazing friends we'd made during our relatively short time there. Some say this has been a big year for us. I say we've gone through more changes than is probably good for any one family to go through. New state, new home, new culture, new school, new job, new baby, new friends, new church, new winter experience (read, misery). New.

In a lot of ways it has been good. Wisconsin schools are amazing and as we approach the last day of school tomorrow I have a child who is not looking forward to summer vacation because of how much he will miss his class and his teacher. And while the winter was beyond awful, the summer here is beyond amazing. (We're still trying to decide whether the summer awesomeness outweighs the winter hell.) We've met some wonderful people and seen some beautiful places. We've seen our adoption happen after years of waiting and signed our finalization paperwork yesterday. One court date away from this particular journey's end.

But here is the reality right now. Much of the time, I am lonely. I am sad. I am isolated. I am missing home and friends and family and wondering again what it was like back when everybody just grew up and stayed close to home, raised their kids in that type of community, didn't go it alone halfway across the country. Much of the time I am slightly angry that we had to leave such an amazingly pro-adoption community of friends, that I had to say goodbye to people with whom I could truly be myself, a feat I don't often accomplish. But my current loneliness? Is it my husbands fault for following his dream across the country? Is it the winter's fault for trapping me inside for 4 months? Is it my baby's fault for reminding me again that I am just AWFUL at parenting during the baby phase?

No. It's my fault and my fault alone.

You see, when we moved here I was determined to stay connected back home and to connect here. I didn't want to come but I tried to embrace the adventure, think of it as 3 years of opportunity, tried to hope that our adoption would happen while we were here, that we would enjoy Wisconsin as much as we did NC. But rather than choosing the reality of connectedness, the hard work (for me, at least) of picking up the phone, of planning and following through on skype dates, of pursuing people here in face-to-face interactions at the park or museum or ice cream shop, I chose facebook. Over and over and over again.

Now don't get me wrong. Facebook has its good points. I get to keep up on news from friends all over the world, I get to share the deep joy we felt when N finally came home, I get to laugh at the crazy things that happen to people when do life together. But at some point, checking once a day becomes twice and three times and 10 and then 50. I put the baby down for a nap and run to my computer. Which obscure friend to whom I haven't spoken in 20 years will have posted an article that I'll read even though I've never even heard of the topic on which it's written? Which new parental controversy will suck me in, even though I actually don't care, and will it send me then spiraling into yet another pit of self-hatred when it comes to my clear shortcomings in the parenting department? And suddenly, 45 minutes later, the dishes still aren't done, I haven't weeded the garden, I may have even forgotten to eat and shower and the baby is waking up. More guilt, more frustration. It's a beautiful cycle, really.

The bigger problem of the cycle is the choice- I choose the fleeting feeling of connectedness over the deeper connections of real personal interaction. I choose the isolation and the safety of my kitchen table and a cup of coffee, rather than doing the hard work of getting past the "dating" phase in new friendships by actually meeting someone for coffee. I choose my own comfort, the quickness, the status that attemps to lure in comments so that I will not feel alone, even though I am actually more alone than if I hadn't posted it in the first place.

In short, I have chosen shallow, elusive intimacy. And it's not working, folks.

My knee-jerk reaction to this epiphany was to swear off facebook altogether. I'm pretty good at being all or nothing, black or white. I have enormous self-control, which is usually a blessing and sometimes a curse because of its rigidity. I woke up this morning thinking, "I'm not going to check it anymore. I'm disabling my account. I'm done. I have to choose real life."

Then I took a long run with my baby. I thought of all the friends all over the world and how I do legitimately enjoy hearing what's going on in their lives, how I love the life announcements and how it really is actually fun to see what the crazy people you went to high school with are doing now that we've all grown out of the stupid and selfish phase that marks those years. I thought of the good and the joy and the positives. And so I did what any logical person who is a raging "J" on the Myers-Briggs would do and made up a list of rules for myself. I will be on facebook less these summer months and here's how I'm going to do it.

(1) I will only check facebook once a day.
(2) I will set a timer for 15 minutes- that gives me a chance to read through my newsfeed once (without clicking refresh), comment if I want to, like a few things and then move on.
(3) I will no longer click on parenting articles. 90% of them end with me having a big knot in my stomach. The other 10% are great and I'll just have to trust my favorite parent friends to send me them via email if they are really worth reading.
(4) I will subscribe to the blogs I actually want to follow so I don't have to check people's facebook accounts to see if they are updated and then get sucked into a myriad of other activities.
(5) I will still post the occasional status update but I'll be a little more prayerful about why I'm doing it.
(6) I'll use the time I would normally spend on facebook making a phone call or sitting outside in the sun with my neighbors or actually answering long emails. Or yeah, doing the dishes. That might help.

I know this isn't a solution to my problem. That I'll continue to be tempted to choose the emptier route. I have some deep soul work to be done here and I'm hoping that God will meet me in that and help me figure out this deeper issue that continually tempts me to seek shallowness. That he'll heal me of settling for less and strengthen me to search for more.

In the meantime, though, year two in Wisconsin starts tomorrow. May it be a year that is marked by deepening friendships, less facebook, more joy and actual intimacy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Ready

It's that time of year again when blogs start popping up full of helpful ways to keep your children from getting bored this summer. Predictably, some parents are excited to have lazier mornings and relaxed days with the kids home while other parents worry about how to fill the hours and what to do when there is no set schedule. I fall somewhere in between.

This year we have the added complication of planning life for a 7-year-old around naps for a 6-month-old. The older one hasn't taken a nap in years (including most of the cross country trips we've done) and the younger one needs to sleep at least 4 hours during the or he's a zombie. And while we are finally in the land of siblings, they are far from being each other's playmates for hours at this point and we find ourselves in much the same place as last year- looking ahead to long, sunny days with endless opportunities for the older, extroverted child who still has no built-in playmates.

So, in the interest of creating some semblance of a weekly plan for our days ahead, I scoured the internet for calendar ideas. While we have outlawed the word "bored" in our home in exchange for a healthy understanding that "boredom" is really just the lull between one finished opportunity and the next adventure to be had, I recognize that a little guidance in said direction can go a long way.

I came up with the following for us, knowing that there are things on here the older child can be doing while I am feeding the littlest guy and putting him down for naps and there is also some built-in quality time for us while the baby is asleep, which will go a long way for my older guy who definitely thrives on play time with his parents.


I'm going to print this out and laminate it- then we can add in which special activities we'll do each day as well as what's coming up that week in terms of planned time with friends, soccer or zoo camp or people coming to visit. My hope is that with some time spent on Sundays together filling this out with our dry erase marker, we can together choose something fun for each day and anticipate that time while also enjoying some structure and some freedom to the day. I took the idea of the themed days from something I found on the internet and thought it would be helpful to have some direction on one planned activity a day. I also know that we realistically won't always plan or execute something for every day and though I HATE not following through on stuff like that, I'm trying to go into this summer with a realistic view of life with a baby and its call for flexibility.

Here's hoping that my 7-year-old can learn some flexibility, too!