This past weekend I was out at a party. I think I mentioned that already. It was cool, it was fun, it was definitely on track to be the type of thing that would trigger my social anxiety, and yet I felt oddly calm. At one point the two people I was talking with took off to bathroom and cigarette breaks respectively, and I was left alone. I took a moment, standing on my own in the middle of the room and examined how uncomfortable I didn’t feel. But then I remembered how humans behave and quickly clove myself to another group.
It was an odd, but exhilarating moment. It probably lasted less than a minute all told, standing on my own, examining the decor and letting the sound of others’ conversations wash over me. I felt very much at peace. I thought about how the standard impulse is to be in a group or pair and talking at these things. I thought about how a-year-ago-me would have instantly looked around for the next people to talk to, but have felt so anxious about approaching them that I probably would have over-compensated by hyperness, or drinking more. I wondered if someone would approach me, standing on my own in the middle of the room and lit by the dimly glowing lights. I wanted to lean back my head, close my eyes and stretch out my arms, but I didn’t do that. I felt aware of other people’s eyes and I wondered if I looked odd to them, if I might be making them uncomfortable. I noticed that I was very comfortable with the peace and respite from talking, but all the same, made the decision to approach others and behave “normally”. I’m not sad about that, and I don’t feel too squished by it either. I feel maybe a bit wistful, but also a bit interested in exploring that feeling further should a future opportunity arise.
Anyway. That’s not what I came here to talk about. I was thinking about that party in the context of a couple of conversations I had with other women who are parents, and how from some of their comments it sounded a bit like they’re starting to feel deleted. Is that the right way of putting it? Raising children seems to take a lot of time, and a lot of that time is really boring self-abnegating stuff.
Take bedtime, which I was thinking about yesterday (and yes, I did – just about – remember to do some meditation after it yesterday, and I will attempt to do likewise tonight). Bedtime is boring, time-consuming and a little like dealing with fragile little bombs that could go off at any moment, thereby adding at least 30 minutes onto the whole affair. Therefore, I have to balance my parenting. I have to stick to the same absolutely boring routine – regardless of how late I get started, there can be no skipping steps. I have to manage them and their emotions so that they don’t kill each other, while at the same time never giving out too harshly (even though I’m feeling pretty “for fuck’s sake, just go to sleep and give me an hour or so where I can actually feel me myself as a person outside of your parent, before tiredness saps me of the will to engage with any more of this day!”) lest there be sobs or tantrums and the whole thing might have to be done over. I have to swallow down the stressed feeling that another day is “over” and I seem to have made no progress in it as a human being. And all with a nice, calm, loving voice. It’s all about hearing them and very much about not expressing my frustrations at all. So, the moment I close that door, I get a bit of a rebound inner tantrum of my own. And then deal with the 20-30 mins of calling me over useless random shite or fights or arguments before they actually go the fuck to sleep.
And parenting days seem to be made up of chunks of scheduled time like this. Boring routines that can’t be wavered from, or you will pay the price. But it’s not just the repetitive nature of it, it’s feeling like you don’t really exist outside your role. That the “real” you is just a ghost hiding inside this jolly parenting shell. And your partner, your brother-in-arms who is down in this mud fighting with you, can sometimes appear to be your enemy as you both struggle for the precious adult resources. And somehow we can forget to talk to each other about anything other than the war too.
Also – beautiful, optimistic, soul-soaring moments. Of course. I think they’re a given, right?
I just think it’s okay to talk about the parts of our souls that get very weary with dredging through the mud to find that gold.