Here I am, on a balcony of a lovely posh hotel on - literally on- the San Francisco Bay, my first real Mamacation since having living children. That's four years, people! Anyone who knew me in my previous life knows mama loves to travel solo. No schedule, able to do whatever feels right and good with no restrictions other than those I create or that might be thrust upon me by my choices of what I'm doing and where I am. Weather, traffic…sometimes those can be frustrating but because there's no one I'm disappointing by not keeping a schedule or nowhere I have to particularly be, they turn into opportunities for reflection and self-awareness.
But what I love most about my solo vacays? Rumination. Space to think and time to simmer in feelings. Let things roll through my body and psyche, room to connect with who I am within this world but more importantly, get a sliver of who I am outside of it. A schoolteacher friend of mine declares herself a "Summer of Soul" every year. I love that.
I have found that soul gets no time when the body it inhabits is a parent. As in, zero.
So. After being granted the gift of not having to travel to Hawaii to finalize our son's adoption, but therein missing a forced vacation badly needed, my truly wonderful husband gave his blessing on my getting the hell outta Dodge for a few days. We've done it before where I've had a night or two at a hotel in the Twin Cities, sometimes just 10 minutes from home. But this is the first Getting Away.
And it feels goooooood.
But here's the thing. I sat this morning with my croissant and freshly squeezed OJ, fresh fruit and organic yogurt and decadent good-stuff coffee overlooking the mystery that is fog and sunlight in San Francisco…and though I felt peaceful, I also felt nothing. Moreover, I thought nothing. At home I crave time to be able to do just this - blog, write pages and experiences about our coming to family, "if only I had the time." I ache for the opportunity to just sit and take in the world around me. Notice it, notice me. Except what I notice this morning is...emptiness.
Wtf?! Has motherhood really wiped the Me out of me? I've been aware of constant fatigue, feeling not only no energy to do anything extra just for me but barely keeping the basics of family home life going because omg at least one of my kids seems to still be awake after nine o'clock 6/7 nights/week so who has time to replenish when the house is still ravaged from their existence? (See? That run-on sentence alone does a good job communicating life's perceived pace lately.) Just getting fundamentals in order to function the next day with any semblance of sanity takes all I have to give. Meal-Clean-UpDishesSweepingLaundryPicking-up is all I do in my 'free time'. During the day it's pack and prep for whatever is on the agenda, meals, and on an exceptional day actually spending time playing with my children. Oh, but mostly it's addressing the very nearly constant needs of my two adorable children. Which if it's not them asking for something of me it's monitoring their activities for safety and appropriateness lest one of them be choking or setting themselves up to choke, strangle or otherwise die or really screw up the day by needing medical attention. Or be getting into something that inevitably creates more work for me, be it re-rolling the tissue paper, putting back all the tupperware or pantry items or pots-n-pans, returning plastic foods to their bucket, chewing on the cheap plastic jewelry or hair accessories Cate has left on the floor (all Matt). In Cate's circumstance, cutting anything possible into tiny pieces (lately it's been Barbie hair, anything paper, even the thin plastic wrapping around new Bounty paper towel rolls), taking apart random things I'd never even considered could come apart, trying to open medications, sucking on toothpaste tubes (had my first poison control call two days ago)…in the last week it's like she's shifted gears into a whole new unexpected level of child endangerment. I thought we were basically done childproofing for her! Not so, this mama learns.
I look back on this and realize herein is the problem. Even on my vacation, my MAMAcation, I'm thinking about them. Reliving my days and experiences, frustrations, joys and fears for them. At dinner last night with a good friend largely all we talked about was motherhood. It's become my whole life. My whole self.
Not for a moment does gratitude for motherhood escape me. The curse of suffering infertility and dead children is fearing you can't, shouldn't, complain about getting what you complained you didn't have for so many years. I'm so grateful for my kids. They light me up in so many ways. And the truth is, they drain me too.
This is a tired conversation. Well known, well worn, that of balancing motherhood with self. But it's the conversation I'm drowning in.
I guess I hope that at some point over the next 2 1/2 days, wisps of the Me that stands on the other side of the bay waving in glee over the adventure of being here finds its way into my day. And that my Soul finds it's way into my awareness and says hello. I miss them.