Category “Neither Here Nor There”

The Space Between

I woke up yesterday morning and wrote a blog post.  I was exhausted.  I wasn’t even sure the post made sense, but I was too tired to care. 

Then I took a nap.  A long and glorious nap.  And I felt better.

When I woke up, I received two important phone calls.  Phone calls that changed my perspective.  Phone calls that were each, in some sense, like a long and glorious nap.  Refreshing.  Reinvigorating.  Restorative.

And then I wrote. 

And it was good. 

When Husband walked through the door yesterday evening, I was smiling.  I still looked like the Exhausted Me (a nap and some phone calls weren’t enough to erase the dark circles from my eyes… or sufficient motivation for me to take a shower), but I felt more like the regular me.  Still tired.  But refreshed.  Reinvigorated.  Restored.

Eager to ride the I-am-recharging-my-batteries wave, I put myself to bed early.  I knew that Lil Mil would wake up at some point in the not-too-distant future, thereby commencing her hourly I-will-cry-for-no-reason-until-morning routine, but it was still early enough for me to get a few hours in before that happened.

I turned off the light, snuggled down under the covers, and closed my eyes.

And couldn’t sleep.

I can always sleep.  Sleeping is my trademark move.  My go-to plan of attack.  When stressed or angry or sad, I sleep.  Easily.  Often.  I don’t even need to be tired when I get into bed.  When my head hits the pillow, I sleep.

Not last night.

Last night, I was wide awake.  I could have gotten up and attempted something productive, but I was too tired for that.  Too tired to do anything but lie there in the dark, wide awake.

And then it hit me.  Out of nowhere, a very un-Lauren thought popped into my brain:

This is a gift.  Enjoy it.

I say this was un-Lauren because I hate sleeplessness.  If I do not fall asleep immediately upon getting into bed, I get angry.  With myself, for drinking that afternoon cup of coffee.  With Husband, for having the TV on too loudly.  With Lil Mil, for crying in the next room.  With the washing machine, for making too much noise.  With the silence, for being too silent.

I do not enjoy lying in bed, not sleeping but not doing anything else, either.  I know some people do.  I unequivocally do not.

Last night, I did.

I’m not sure if it was the catharsis of writing yesterday’s post, or the fact that Lil Mil’s new scream-shriek has dramatically reduced the number of quiet hours in my day, but for some reason, I felt thankful for my sleeplessness.  Thankful that I had time to think.  About everything.  About nothing.  The freedom to let my mind roam and wander while my body relaxed against the sheets.

I will not be anxious, I told myself.  I will not stress about the fact that I will be even more exhausted tomorrow than I was today.  I will enjoy this.

And I did.  For hours.  When Lil Mil finally did cry at 11:30 p.m., I was awake.  I stayed awake while she cried and was still awake when she fell back asleep, as well as when she woke back up an hour later, and an hour after that.  I didn’t fight it.  I just enjoyed the solitude and the silence between cries.  At some point around 3:30 a.m., I finally fell asleep.  Miraculously, Lil Mil didn’t wake up again until 6:30, when we both got up.

Three hours of sleep.  I should be right back in the Exhausted Place (it’s not as if I really left).

But I’m not.  I feel … rested.  Better than I did yesterday.  Better than I have in days.

Exhaustion is not the product of insufficient sleep.  Sure, insufficient sleep is part of it.  But that I’m-so-tired-I-can’t-think feeling comes from more than a mere sleep deficit.  It happens when we feel overextended, underappreciated and out of control.  It sneaks in when we’ve tried to do too much, when we can no longer see the trees for the forest (not the same as not seeing the forest for the trees).  It’s the consequence of a life lived to the edge of the page, without any margin.  Without any space between.

Last night was my space between. 

This morning, I am committed to finding more of it.

The Exhausted Place

When I was pregnant, imagining what Life With a Newborn would be like, I saw a tired, bleary-eyed version of myself shuffling to and from my child’s nursery.  I thought I’d be exhausted all the time, barely able to keep my eyes open.

And then Lil Mil arrived.  And those first few days were tough (so tough).  But after about a week or so, Lil Mil settled into a fairly predictable sleep pattern and was only waking up twice at night, which meant I was getting plenty of uninterrupted sleep. 

Life was rosy.  I was creative.  I was productive.  I was having fun. 

I was well-rested.

Operative word:  was.

I am tired.  So tired.  My head hurts, my eyes burn, my back aches.  I feel the opposite of creative.  So uncreative that I can’t think of a clever antonym to describe my uncreativity.  I haven’t written a blog post in nearly a week.  I’ve made no progress on my book.  There have been days where I’ve stared at my computer screen, watching my malfunctioning cursor bounce around the page for the.  Whole.  Day.  Without writing a word. 

This is what I was missing.  This is what I didn’t understand. 

I thought creativity was something you could actively cultivate, no matter what the circumstance.  I thought creativity was just a matter of will.  That productivity was a choice.  That phrases like “I don’t have the energy” or “I’m so tired I can’t think” were just things people said to make themselves feel better about the fact that they hadn’t done any of the things they said they were going to do.

I don’t have the energy.

I’m so tired I can’t think.

I get it now. 

Time (or the lack thereof) is not the biggest obstacle to creative productivity.  Exhaustion is.  If I had felt like this during the early weeks of Lil Mil’s life, I might have abandoned Embrace the Detour all together.  I definitely wouldn’t have finished a draft of my book on time.  And I wouldn’t have blogged regularly, either.  I wouldn’ve have had anything to say.

This Exhausted Place is not a happy place.  It is a decidedly un-rosy place.  A place of half-empty glasses and partly cloudy skies.  A place where energetic, optimistic people become grouchy slugs.  Panic percolates.  Resentment builds. Unease settles in, becomes the undercurrent for everything else.

The longer we stay here, the worse it gets.  The harder it is to get out.   

The Exhausted Place is inhabited by exhausted people.  People like the Exhausted Me.  If you see her in the supermarket, it’s probably best to avoid her.  Which will be easy, since she’s too exhausted to see you, anyway.

I don’t like the Exhausted Me.  She’s boring.  She’s too emotional.  She’s kinda mean.  She makes things more difficult than they have to be.  I don’t like her, but when I look in the mirror, there she is.  Dull eyes.  Sallow skin.  A shirt that needs to be washed. 

The Exhausted Me, she needs more than a few hours sleep.  She might need a few weeks of sleep.  But if you want to get out of the Exhausted Place, you have to start somewhere.  And I’m going to start with a nap.

Hair’s The Thing…

When I was a sophomore in high school, I told my hairdresser I wanted my hair to look like Rachel’s.

She either didn’t know who Rachel was or didn’t know what she was doing (I suspect both may have been true), because the haircut this woman gave me looked nothing like this:

And everything like this:

Oh, yes.  I rocked this hairstyle long before Kate did.  (Dear high school friends, you are laughing right now.  Please refrain from digging up old pictures of me with this ‘do and sending them to me, because if you do, I might have to post them).

It was a disaster.  I was a fifteen-year-old girl living in a town where “different” meant shopping somewhere other than the Gap (me) or having parents who weren’t Republicans (also me).   This haircut went beyond different.  This haircut would be my social demise.

If I let it.

Here’s the thing about my fifteen-year-old self:  she was smart.  Smart enough to know that if she acknowledged that her haircut was horrendous, she would become The Girl With The Horrendous Haircut.  If, however, she acted as though this monstrosity was exactly the haircut she wanted, she would remain the same person she’d always been:  That Lauren.  As in: That Lauren, she always does things her own way. Or: That Lauren, you never know what she’ll do next.

So I pretended to love it, comb-over bang and all.  I became, as husband puts it, A Short Hair Girl.

Why am I bringing this up now?  Because a month ago I cut my hair.  And while it’s an adorable, trendy, cute little haircut, getting it required that I cut off six hard-earned inches.

Let me back up:  after Hair Debacle ‘96, I kept my hair short.  Not as short as the original cut (I wisely grew that bad boy out my junior year of high school), but short enough to maintain my Short Hair Girl status.  In 2001, it hit my shoulders for a stint, but it wasn’t long before cut it short again.

Until two years ago.  Two years ago, I decided to grow it out REALLY long, which, when I made this pronouncement, meant to my collarbone.  And grow it I did.  Thanks to all the pregnancy hormones that flooded my body a year later, by the time Lil Mil arrived, I had Long Hair.  Halfway-down-my-back long hair.

And I loved it.  Even though I never felt like it totally suited me, I loved how it felt and how it looked.  It was youthful.  Sexy.  Versatile (in theory at least… I never actually did anything particularly interesting with it).  Most important, it was LONG.

But then two tiny hands started pulling on it, and clumps of it started falling out (bye bye hormones), and suddenly there was HAIR EVERYWHERE.

And so, in a sleep deprived haze, I walked into my hair salon for a trim.

An hour later, I walked out with a bob.

I have regretted it ever since.

Husband thinks I’m crazy.  ”You’re a Short Hair Girl,” he says with a shrug.

“So you didn’t like my long hair?” I ask.

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it.  I’m just saying, you’re a Short Hair Girl.”

“You only think that because I had short hair when you met me,” I point out.

“Maybe,” he admits.

“Look at this picture!” I moan, pointing at a photo of me with long locks, wearing the smile of a youthful, sexy, versatile person.  He examines the photo.

“Yeah, you look good there.”

“So you like my hair better long?” I demand.

“You realize you’re being ridiculous, right?”

“Yes!” I shout.  ”I know!  I’m being totally and completely ridiculous.  I am not this girl!  I do not freak out over haircuts!  Especially cute haircuts!”  (It’s a very cute haircut.)

“Why are you shouting?”

“Because I miss my long hair!”

I miss my long hair.

Who is this person and what has she done with me?  Where has she hidden the ballsy fifteen-year-old who walked through the halls with her scissor-hacked head held high when most girls would’ve demanded to be home schooled until it grew out (yes, it was that bad)?

What exactly am I mourning?

My youth?  My sex appeal?  My, um, versatility?

All of these things.  None of these things.

I am a Short Hair Girl.  But, for a few months, this Short Hair Girl was a Long Hair Girl.  And during those long haired months, I found this new voice and this new part of me and this incredible and totally unexpected mommy mojo.  I became a New Me.  An I’m-comfortable-with-who-I-am-now New Me.  And that New Me had long hair.  And, as silly and lame as it sounds, somehow that long hair was part of the package.

And now it’s gone.

It doesn’t make any sense.  It doesn’t make sense that my identity could be tied up in my hair.

“You realize you’re being ridiculous, right?”

I do.

+     +     +     +

What was the worst haircut you ever got?  Have you ever cried over a haircut?  Do you feel like your identity is tied up in your appearance (even if it shouldn’t be)?  Are you a Short Hair Girl?


When The Choice Is Easy

Most of the time, it’s a struggle.  Trying to juggle work and life, as though those things are separate entities.  There’s never enough time to do it all, so we prioritize.  We choose.  Some days work overshadows life.  Other days life stretches and expands to fill every waking hour.  Most days, we end up somewhere in the middle.  We work, we play, we parent, never certain that we’ve gotten the ratio just right.

My 100 day experiment encouraged me to make every day a work day.  That was the point, after all.  I wanted to challenge myself to be creative and productive every day.

And I was.  I am.  I’ve worked on my book nearly every day since Lil Mil was born.  And on the days I haven’t worked, I’ve thought about working.

Every day has been a work day.

Not today.

Today was not a work day.  Today, I laid on the couch with a brave little girl with a bandaid on each thigh.  We napped.  We watched some TV (turns out Lil Mil is a SATC fan.  Duh.)  We giggled.  We cuddled.  We tried to forget about the smiley nurse and her three needles.

Today was a rest day.  Not because I needed one, but because she did.

+     +     +     +

What was your work/life ratio today?  50/50?  20/80?  90/10?   When was your last rest day?  If you’re a work-at-home-mom, has your definition of “work day” changed since you had kids or started working from home?  Are you a SATC fan?

Little Girls

We passed them on our way to Trader Joe’s.  Five little girls, huddled together on the playground of the elementary school near our house.  I smiled when I saw them.  Imagined Lil Mil at six or seven, playing with her own little posse.  I slowed down to watch them.

Five little girls.  One leader.

She was the boss.  They knew it.  She knew it.  She was telling the other four what to do, and they were doing it.  Which made them…

Followers.

I don’t want Lil Mil to be a follower.

This thought shot through my mind like a bullet, followed almost immediately by another thought, equally as powerful:

I don’t want her to be bossy, either.

I looked down at my daughter, riding happily in the Baby Bjorn, the breeze ruffling her hair.  She was watching those girls, too.  Smiling at them.

You’re a little girl, I murmured to her, my lips grazing her ear.  She kicked her feet and cooed.  Don’t be like those little girls, I whispered.

It was then that I noticed another little girl, the same age, on the other side of the playground.  She was wearing a rainbow jumper and fringed brown boots.  She was racing two little boys.

And she was winning.

I squeezed Lil Mil’s feet in my hands and smiled.