All of us who are parents go through periods like this. The partner has back to back to back business trips, the baby stops sleeping, a final paper deadline comes out of nowhere, work gets crazy, everyone gets sick. Day to day life becomes about nothing more than getting the baby safely to and from her bed, not falling asleep on the freeway, and not getting fired.
I had spells like this before marriage, before parenthood, before big-R responsible grown up life. I’d nearly break my finger trying to chase the cat out of somewhere he didn’t need to be, my boyfriend would show up banging on my front door in the middle of the night, I’d fall behind on my work-from-home work and end up skipping out entirely on my reliable hourly gig just to catch up. I would disappear into a void of struggle and stress and then spend days digging myself back out.
There are a number of common denominators between these crazy-then and crazy-now scenarios from my life, first and foremost being the crazy. As a general rule of thumb, I like being overloaded. Free time kind of freaks me out, so on a day to day basis I find comfort in the knowledge that I will have very few minutes of unstructured time in which I might have to make a decision about what I might LIKE to do as opposed to what I MUST do (as I’ve mentioned before, me bored leads to bad things). So with 23.75 hours of every day planned out down to the minute, when something or someone breaks or falls or fails in a way that I could not have anticipated, fitting in all of the true must-dos gets very complicated very quickly. Fortunately, in my eternal quest to master time management, I have learned a very simple way to deal with these complications: temporarily suspend any and all social contact until the chaos has subsided and the cleanup has commenced.
When I was young and free, this solution worked beautifully. I could wallow and weep into my Irish Coffee for days on end, all while billing twenty dollars an hour to type away at the freelance research notes that would be the difference between defaulting on my student loans and another month of financial solvency. I could hole up in yoga pants and slippers, eat my way through the pantry, leave my apartment only to smoke my morning cigarettes on the back porch. I could be as depressed and as spun out as I wanted to be, for as long as I wanted to be, and could remain in isolation until every last task was done and every last moan was groaned.
While in the midst of this crisis induced antisocial behavior, I might bow out of a few art openings, ignore a few emails from friends, ignore my phone for a while. But once the rebound was underway, so too was my social life. I’d catch up on emails, go out for drinks a few nights in a row, finally let my boyfriend inside to share that bottle of whiskey he always brought with him. In short, I might fall a long way down and take a long time to get back up, but I always ended up right back in the same place I started.
Now, no matter how bad or hard or stressful life gets, I have no choice but to rebound the second I feel myself stumbling. Haven’t slept more than a couple of hours all week? Ask for an extra shot of espresso. Falling behind at the office? Eliminate lunch and bathroom breaks and work more efficiently. Arm going numb from constantly carrying the kid? Move her to the other side. Feeling a little hint of run-down/stressed-out/over-worked/depressed/and-maybe-just-a-little-bit-lonely? Get over it and go clean up the kitchen.
I suppose I have parenthood to thank for a newfound emotional hardiness that more or less has eliminated the whole wallow-while-you-work tendency I used to be so fond of during times of duress, because anyone who’s a parent knows that there’s just not enough time in the day for child-rearing AND self-pity (which is a good thing, particularly for those of us with slightly more manic depressive leanings). But generally speaking, whether in times of peace or times of pandemonium, those social interactions that once were the buffer in my schedule just don’t exist in the way they used to. So even though I no longer descend nearly as far into bedlam as I once did, even though I keep myself together in a way that is new, because I’m starting at such a deficit, I’m never quite able to dig myself back out of the social void these crisis modes create. Where I used to end up running in place, now I can’t seem to even get my feet back onto the treadmill.
I’ve always been good at being alone. I’m one of those people who can be alone for days and weeks on end without ever feeling a hint of loneliness. On the contrary, I take solace in solitude, I crave that quiet hum of my own little brain chattering away with no interruptions, and as such my biggest fear about becoming a parent was not the isolation that everyone seemed to warn me about, but the lack of alone time I feared was ahead of me. I was wrong. I overestimated myself and my ability to remain disconnected from my friends and from the social world at large for extended, ongoing, open-ended periods of time. Which is where blogging comes in.
I started this blog a few weeks before my daughter’s first birthday as a way to combat the foreign and unexpected sense of loneliness that, in its grand contradiction, motherhood had ushered in along with my permanent new companion. But just as I overestimated my old appreciation of alone time, I underestimated my new need for this new form of interaction that I never thought I would like, let alone require.
In the past few weeks, the chaos that a sick baby can bring prevented me not only from posting to my own site, but from reading others’ posts, from commenting and communicating, from generally sending good blog vibes out to the good blogging world that, I now realize, has helped keep me quite sane despite the insanity that our modern world of working moms has wrought. It wasn’t until this week that how very dependent upon this blogging community I have become.
So thank you for stopping by, thank you for coming back, and thank you for sharing your own little bit of solitude with me.