Just in case you were wondering…….I have been caught up in trying to learn a new phone and to tame the files in my pc.
My phone problems came after I destroyed my cell phone in the ocean, the one which replaced the one I cleaned in my washing machine. My daughter came to my rescue by giving me an old smart phone. How old was it? The sales rep helping me said, “Sorry it is taking me so long. I have never seen this model before and need to look up the information on it.”
I wrestled with it for a month without mastering the swipe technique, but decided to keep it rather than go back to the phone store. Then my monthly bill came, indicating an additional charge of $78 for data use. I barely talked on the phone much less spent time doing anything else with it. U.S. Cellular, who does have decent in-store customer service, worked with me. After a brief discussion of what I wanted to do with a phone, a new flip phone (with insurance) is in my hands.
My pc is absent because I needed to get my files back in some kind of order. It seems as though every photograph and every document is registered everywhere– downloads, pictures, documents, Picasa, recent places, favorites. And there are old files I couldn’t open or find. So many places to search. Too much for this right side of the brain person. I handed it over to a computer person.
At least my tablet or android or Nexus (how many names can one piece of electronics have??) is here with me. Of course, since it is me, to get one paragraph done has taken 20 minutes. The keyboard, given to me by my son to make it easier, sits on the desk sulking because I failed in activating the Bluetooth needed to put it to use.
What a love/hate relationship I carry on with these modern devices! I love them for their fast, cheap communication and ability to save and store enough words to amount to a library. I dislike the power they hold over me, particularly the part which keeps my eyes glued to a screen too many hours. I love the photo editing. I really dislike the frequent changes made to my computer in the early morning hours and my lack of control over an inert object I paid for.
Most of the above I wrote last week and here it still sits. Maybe I am the inert object.
Every time I’m out with my kids — this seems to happen:
An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, “Oh, Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.”
Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy everysecond, etc, etc, etc.
I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers — “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” — those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Now. I’m not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls.Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”
At that particular moment, Amma had arranged one of the new bras I was buying on top of her sweater and was sucking a lollipop that she must have found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn’t find Chase anywhere, and Tish was grabbing the pen on the credit card swiper thing WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, “Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you.”
That’s not exactly what I wanted to say, though.
There was a famous writer who, when asked if he loved writing, replied, “No. but I love having written.” What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, “Are you sure? Are you sure you don’t mean you love having parented?”
I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.
Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I’m being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times — G, if you can’t handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?
That one always stings, and I don’t think it’s quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right…in her own way…and she happens to be honest.
Craig is a software salesman. It’s a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don’t ever feel the need to suggest that he’s not doing it right, or that he’s negative for noticing that it’s hard, or that maybe he shouldn’t even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: “This career stuff…it goes by so fast…ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!”
My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.
But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here’s what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:
“It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And hopefully, every once in a while, I’ll add — “Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up — I’ll have them bring your groceries out.”
Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn’t work for me. I can’t even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.
Here’s what does work for me:
There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. It’s those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.
Like when I actually stop what I’m doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can’t hear her because all I can think is — This is the first time I’ve really seen Tish all day, and my God — she is so beautiful.Kairos.
Like when I’m stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I’m haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I’m transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I’ll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world’s mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.
Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.
These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don’t remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.
If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.
I am trying to pinpoint where this feeling comes from, if it is an external or an internal source. I take a pill daily for depression. Actually two pills. The second one is to help the first one do its job to the best of its ability. My body doesn’t utilize the first one so good without the second one which is enough to raise my hackles. Why don’t I behave so I can get by taking one pill instead of two? See, already I am getting testy.
In this, my 70th year, a large increase of twisted situations, external sources, keep life challenging. I once was described as calm and unflappable. No more. Some of the small things that should dissolve minutes after happening stay with me longer. Like yesterday’s visit to Comcast.
In April I answered a call from a sales rep who explained that my rate would be going up to $88 a month unless I took advantage of this new plan which included getting HBO and other stuff.
I worked my way through the jabber and had her say in plain English that I could have a plan for $74 ($19 more than my present plan) or I could pay $88. Even though I do not have a tv, I would have the bundle of cable and internet with either plan.
Several days later UPS delivered a box from Comcast. I knew it had to do with the new plan but just let it sit there while my housemate searched for a cheaper alternative, without losing HD Wi-Fi.
Then the next Comcast bill came–$81.We had no better alternative and now I couldn’t explain for love nor money what it was I had access to and what the box had to do with it.
I girded up my loin and took the box to the Comcast office. I told the customer service person that I needed help understanding what was going on with my account. Which she explained to me without either one of us losing our composure.
I did feel that little hot flush feeling (blood pressure, hormones??), but managed to content myself with snippy sentences instead of all out sarcasm. Because you know you are not talking to the person who controls the labyrinth of new plans, additional channels and speed, partial charges and partial credits; the reps are just the messengers. Bless their hearts.
I did find out the box’s involvement–it had to do with cable and tv. “We don’t have a tv so do I leave it here?” “No, you need to have it.” “I need to have this, even though I am not going to use it?” “Yes, if you don’t take it then I’ll have to charge you $88 for your plan.”