Category “Him and Me”

Unextraordinary Measures (Day #99)

I meant to write about Five for Ten on Friday, so that by the time today arrived, you would know all about the Momalom duo and their quest to foster connection and conversation.  I wanted to tell you how important I think these things are and how cool I think it is that that Jen and Sarah have made it so simple.  Give five minutes.  Get five minutes.  Connect.  Converse.  I wanted to do these things last week so that I could encourage some of you (all of you?) to participate.

Best laid plans.

So here I am today, forced to rely on the old “click HERE and HERE to find out what Five for Ten is all about.”  I could blame my book (it being Day #99 and all), but I won’t, because it’s not the reason I didn’t post on Friday.  I didn’t post on Friday because I didn’t write on Friday.  Not a word.  It was Day #96 and I took the day off.  And then I took the next day off.  And the next one, too.

Does that mean you’ve already finished the book? you ask excitedly.  Expectantly.

I just smile mysteriously.

On first glance, you might think this is the smile of a pleased, confident person.  A person who has finished ahead of schedule.  But if you look closer, you’ll notice that this smile of mine has an edge.

Because it’s forced.

I am wearing the tight, oh-crap-what-have-I-done smile of a person who lives in a world where time is limited and moments are fleeting.  A place where opportunities are easily missed.  A universe where once-in-a-lifetime means exactly that.

No, I did not finish ahead of schedule.  I wanted – needed! – days 96, 97 and 98.  But I wanted something else more.

I wanted to spend Friday morning having a talking-really-talking conversation with Husband.

I wanted to spend Friday afternoon on the couch with Mom and Lil Mil.

I wanted to spend Friday evening at happy hour with my family, drinking white wine and munching on sweet potato fries.

I wanted to spend Saturday (yes, all of it) cleaning out my closet with Mom, laughing at the bubblegum pink mini dress I wore on New Years’ Eve the year I met Husband and the scores of lingerie I got at my bachelorette party and have never worn.

I wanted to spend Saturday evening talking to Dad about the post-Day #100 future of this blog.

And I wanted to spend Sunday celebrating my daughter’s baptism, exactly one year after she came into my life.

I wanted to do these things.  I also wanted to spend the weekend finishing my book.  But I wanted to do these things more.

So here it is Monday morning, Day #99, the day before my big deadline, and I am forcing a smile.  Telling myself that I made the right choice, that those things I did mattered more than game plans and word counts.  Reminding myself that the smile I wore yesterday wasn’t forced at all.  Because it wasn’t.  And if I had it to do over again, I would choose to spend my weekend exactly the way I spent it.  Not pursuing my big dream.  Not chasing my passion.  But cleaning my closet.  Eating with my family.  Sitting on my couch.  Watching days 96, 97, and 98 pass by.

This is hard for me to admit.

Setting big goals, pursuing big dreams, taking big risks – we don’t hesitate to call those acts courageous.  They look courageous.  They feel courageous.  Deciding to spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning your closet, that doesn’t look or feel anything like courageous.  It looks and feels… sorta lame.  Very average.  Painfully ordinary.

And you know what?  It is.  Average.  Ordinary.  There is nothing extraordinary about the existence of messy closet or the desire to clean it.  Just like there is nothing extraordinary about a meal with family.  Or an afternoon on the couch.  There is, however, something quite extraordinary about finishing a novel.  And yet, I chose to do the ordinary things instead.

Because I wanted to.

Which makes me look and feel … sorta lame.  Very average.  Painfully ordinary.

Because I am.

Not always.  But sometimes.

I am ordinary.  An ordinary person who enjoys doing ordinary things.

These words, they scare me.  I don’t want to be ordinary.  And I certainly don’t want to be perceived as ordinary.  By you.  By Husband.  By Lil Mil.

It takes courage to be extraordinary.  But it takes courage to be ordinary, too.

It takes courage to be real.

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(Do you struggle with feeling ordinary?  To you make an effort to to be extraordinary?  Is it hard for you to acknowledge the parts of yourself that you think make you less desirable?  Do you agree that it takes courage to be real?  Are you participating in Five for Ten?  If not, you should!  Hop on over to Momalom and sign up!  For those of you who aren’t into clicking, here’s the deal:  if you will commit to spend five minutes at Embrace the Detour for ten days in a row (and leave a comment!), then I will do the same on your blog.  What if you don’t have a blog?  It doesn’t matter!  Leave me a comment and I will spend at least five minutes emailing you back.  The whole point is to make connections and start conversations.  We all need both!)

Where’d I Go? (Day #96)

No, this is not another post about my ever-changing identity.  This post is about the fact that Husband and I have thousands – literally thousands – of pictures of Lil Mil, and I am in maybe a hundred of them.   100 out of at least 2000.  Less than 5%.

I blame Husband.  After all, who else is supposed to be capturing these moments of me with my little girl?  It’s not that he doesn’t take pictures – he does.  All the time.  I’ll  be holding her and he’ll be snapping away.  Great, I’ll think to myself.  Finally some good pics of us. Then, when I actually look at these photos he’s taken of the two of us, I see her adorable, smiling face … and my arm.  Or shoulder.  Or leg.

She’s front and center.  I’m out of frame.

Yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  Or hand, as it turned out.  Balancing a laughing Lil Mil with my right (sidebar:  how awesome is it when they first discover their laugh???) and awkwardly clutching my iPhone with my left, I snapped the gem above.  I meant for me to be in the picture – that was the whole point - but one-handed iPhone photography takes skills I don’t have.

Staring at this photo (which I really like, btw), I started wondering: what is the proper balance between Self and Other?  For me, the context is motherhood.  I have a three-and-a-half-month old.  My life is necessarily less about me and more about her right now.  But will it always be like that?  Will I ever be front and center again?  Or have I permanently been relegated to the depths of Stage Left?

Looking back on my own childhood, I remember all the times my parents’ lives were about me.  My activity, my school project, my crisis-of-the-week.  Meanwhile, I have friends who’ve told me that their childhoods revolved around their parents’ lives – their careers, their parties, their nights out and trips away.  I know some of these friends’ parents, and I like them.  Their children don’t.

So where does that leave me?  I have dreams and passions and goals I want to pursue.  A career I’m trying to create.  Books to write, brands to build.  People to see and places to go.  But I also have a daughter whose dreams and passions and goals need cultivating.  A little girl who deserves a mom who will put her front and center.  Not always.  But sometimes.  When it matters.

When it matters. Yes, that sounds good.  Nice and vague.  But what does it mean, practically?  And how am I supposed to know when I’m in one of those this matters moments?

Is it an either/or?  Or is there a way to keep both of us in the picture?

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(I’ve posed this question in the context of motherhood, but I think it might even be more interesting in the context of romantic relationships.  When are you supposed to put your mate front and center?  When is it your turn?  Is it always 50/50?  If your answer is “it depends,” then does the same hold true in a parent-child relationship?)

The Bliss Of Oblivion (Day #36)

“You stink.”

The voice belongs to Husband. He and I are doing what new parents do best: we’re huddled over Lil Mil, just staring at her.

He’s no closer to her than I am. Yet, he smells her dirty diaper. The spit-up caked in her hair. Her milky breath.

I smell none of these things.

There are several possible explanations for my olfactory impairment:

Explanation #1: Lil Mil’s smells have become my smells. I can’t smell her because she smells like me. Which means I smell like baby poop, spit up and breastmilk.

I reject this explanation. (I am ignoring the fact that Husband has, on several occasions, announced that I “smell like baby.” I am also ignoring the dried spit-up in my hair, the presence of which I would be wholly unaware of were it not for the fact that I am beginning to sport spit-up infused dreds).

Explanation #2: Lil Mil’s smells are too subtle for the normal person to notice them. Husband is not a normal person.

I like this explanation and would wholeheartedly embrace it were it not for the fact that Lil Mil’s diaper is, in fact, dirty. Very dirty. And yes, that dried white stuff in her hair is, in fact, last night’s spit-up (“spit-up” being my all-purpose euphemism for any substance that projects from my child’s mouth. If we’re being honest, the stuff in her hair is straight-up vomit). In other words, as cute as she is, there is no way my daughter doesn’t stink.

Which brings me to Explanation #3: Lil Mil smells. I’m aware of it. But I’ve chosen – on a deeply subconscious level – to ignore it.

I want to reject this explanation, mostly because it requires me to acknowledge (A) that my baby smells and (B) that I’m letting her smell. (Before you become alarmed (Mom), I promise I am not letting my child sit around in a dirty diaper, her hair covered in vomit. What I can’t smell, I can certainly see. Eventually.)

But as much as I want to move on to Explanation #4 (Explanation #4: I actually do have some sort of olfactory impairment, the remedy to which involves elaborate and expensive aromatherapy treatments that can only be administered at Burke Williams), I’m stuck at #3. Because #3 fits. It fits the Lauren Miller Life Strategy, which isn’t so much a strategy as a character flaw that I like to pretend is a strategy.

I’m oblivious. Like, generally. As a rule.

I’m the girl that steps into the street without looking, that bumps into elderly people, that stops short on the sidewalk. And now that girl has become a mom who bumps people (and tables and chairs) with her carseat and rolls over toes (okay, whole feet) with her stroller.

Does my tendency toward oblivion mean I’m horribly self-absorbed? Too wrapped up in self to notice others? Of course, I want to say no. And I will say no, because this is my blog, and I can say whatever I want.

I’m pretty sure it’s the truth, though. Because I’m pretty sure my cluelessness is actually an attempt to avoid self-absorption.

Here’s the thing: I care what people think about me. I’m also fairly intuitive and pretty self-aware. Which means I can usually tell how I’m being perceived.

I’ve found that it is best to avoid this at all costs.

Hence, the Lauren Miller Life Strategy: be oblivious. Put blinders on. You can’t obsess over how you’re being perceived if you don’t notice how you’re being perceived. If you aren’t aware that your daughter needs a new diaper, you can’t worry that the barista at Starbucks thinks you’re a bad mom because you’ve decided to finish your latte instead of changing it. If you don’t see the guy at Trader Joe’s staring at the bright yellow baby poop on your pants, then you can’t be mortified that you left the house with BABY POOP ON YOUR PANTS (Oh yes. I did. Today. And yes, it’s still there).

You might not buy it. I doubt that Husband will buy it. But I happen to think I’m on to something here. I think that obliviousness can be (and often is) the sign of an I-matter-more-than-you mentality. But I also think that sometimes it’s a defense mechanism. An attempt – yes, perhaps misguided – to avoid obsessing over what other people think. Because believe me, without my blinders on, I would obsess. I do obsess. When I rammed those women with my stroller last week (jarring myself out of oblivion and into hyperawareness) I spent the rest of the afternoon doing just that.

It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t productive. It wasn’t all that enlightening, either.

And so, with apologies to those whose toes I won’t see and thus will crush with my stroller wheel, I choose the ignorant stink bliss of oblivion.

(Do you tend toward oblivion? Is obliviousness a trait reserved for the horribly self-involved? Do you think bloggers are, by nature, self-absorbed? For a thought-provoking discussion of our society’s collective narcissism, check out “Narcissism Misunderstood” on The Privilege of Parenting.)

My Number One(s) (Day #21)

Be My Valentine.

No question mark.  Not a question.  Even when we change the phrasing, add the tonal uptick at the end  - Will you be mine? - we aren’t really asking.  Not really. We’re pronouncing.

I choose you.

You and only you.  You are my number one.

We make this pronouncement all the time, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  On Valentine’s Day, we do it with flowers and chocolates and conversation hearts, with big sweeping gestures and small expensive gifts, because whether we like it or not, February 14th is a day that demands a choice.  A day that requires us to decide who matters most.

But what about all the regular Sundays and random Tuesdays?  What about the days when it’s permissible to come home empty-handed, when I Love You’s and Be Mine’s aren’t required, when our decision to work late doesn’t mean that we’re putting work first.

Or does it?

Which is a more accurate reflection of our priority list:  how we spend V-day or how we spend the other 364 days of the year?

This past week, I’ve been struggling with how to balance the three Bs.  I’ve blogged and talked and thought about how to best allocate my time between baby, book and blog.  I worry that blog is trumping book.  That baby is getting my time but not my energy.  That book needs more of me than I can give.

What about boy?

The boy.  My boy.

Husband.

Where is he on the priority list?  If you believe my recent posts, he’s not on it.

But he is, of course.  He tops it.  He’s my number one.  My one and only.  My valentine.

It just took today for me to remember that.

We spent today with Lil Mil and Sister, who’s visiting for the weekend.  It was a good day.  A satisfying day.  As usual, Lil Mil got the bulk of the attention. But for the first time in too long, Husband got the bulk of my brain power.  I thought about him.  I appreciated him.  He occupied the space in my head that’s normally filled with plot points and dialogue fragments and post ideas.

It helped, of course, that Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday this year.  My no-writing rule shortened my priority list by two.  With nothing else competing for my time, the choice was easy.  I put my family first and called it a day.

But what about tomorrow?   When the chocolates have been eaten and the flowers have begun to wilt, when Valentine’s Day and its mandate have come and gone, who – or what – will be my number one?

That’s easy:  boy and baby.

Better question:  when the chocolates have been eaten and the flowers have begun to wilt, when Valentine’s Day and its mandate have come and gone, how will I make sure that boy and baby know that they come first? Absolutely, unequivocally.  That as much time and energy as I devote to book and blog and everything else, they matter most.  That really, they’re all that matters.

I don’t have the answer.  I just know that it’s important that I ask the question.  Important that my number ones know where they stand.  That it’s my job to make sure that they do.

(To Husband and Lil Mil:  Be my valentines.  Love, me/mommy)