Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This Magic Moment

We survived the birthday weekend.  The big number five has come and gone, and we are left with sagging streamers, slowly deflating balloons, some Guardians of the Galaxy Legos, and a very grown up Kiddo.  While most of you started your week yesterday, school was out yesterday for MLK Day, and so my work week starts today.  It's back to writing and planning for the quickly approaching spring semester.  (Did I mention I'll have sixteen students in my Comp class? So excited.)  It's also time for really real-life things like waiting for the refrigerator repair guy (my hero) and attacking the laundry that has multiplied like a mutant virus in our hampers.

All of this real life, this everyday stuff, has gotten me thinking about magic.  Not the David Copperfield makes the Statue of Liberty disappear kind of magic.  Not even the Amazing Jonathan/Penn and Teller snarky, ironic kind of magic.  I'm talking about the magic that gets manufactured in our minds, the kind that we dream about and talk about and have come to expect.  Everywhere I look (especially the internet and social media), I see some new post or article about the magic of falling in love, a magical wedding/honeymoon, marriage-is-magic, the magic/miracle of pregnancy, the magic of childbirth and motherhood, even writing gets portrayed as some magical communion between writer and page.  And I know that I am probably the least magic-prone person on the planet, but seriously, everyone, ENOUGH!

Allow me to change course for just a moment and share a personal memory.  It's April 15, 2002, and I'm sitting on my sofa in my tiny apartment with my boyfriend.  I think we're just idly chatting (even if the conversation was veering into rather random territory), and it takes a few minutes of puzzled listening before I finally say, "Are you proposing?"  He confirms that he is, I agree, and that's pretty much it.  Six months later, we were married in a ceremony that by today's standards was laughably quaint but still had the same result: at the end we were man and wife.  Fast forward nearly seven years and find us expecting a baby, eight and Kiddo arrives six weeks early.  Five more and we're eating a Frozen-themed homemade cake and crossing our fingers that the balloons stay up until the celebration is over.

What does any of this have to do with magic, you ask?  I say, very little.  When my husband and I met, we fell almost instantly in love (well, maybe I shouldn't say "we," but I think he did too.)  But it was all very much without fanfare or fantasy, or as I might have called it then, "drama."  My husband is a quiet, thoughtful man who seems to spend very little time imagining how things "will be" or "should be," and his way of approaching life appealed to my no-nonsense sensibilities.  I've embraced his fantasy-free thinking and applied it to many areas of our lives together, and I believe it has saved us both from a lot of extra heartache and disappointment.

Whenever a life milestone approaches, I make a concerted effort not to imagine how it will play out, not to embellish said imagining with romantic flourishes.  In short, I don't fantasize about a perfect vision of the event.  This can be difficult with Pinterest and parenting magazines and mommy blogs and marriage books all giving you a very different message.  In fact, I would argue that Pinterest is built and exists on, nay feeds on, people's fantasies.  (Before anyone starts to freak out, I'm not knocking Pinterest.  I know lots of you find great ideas, recipes, kid crafts, etc. there.  Just bear with me for a moment.)  How To Take a Perfect Pregnancy Photo Shoot, Throw the Perfect First Birthday Party, 30 School Lunches (No Repeats)!  There's nothing wrong with any of these things, but collectively they play into our magical mindset.  For a moment, for a life, to be meaningful, it must be full of magic.

I've met so many women who are devastated when their childbirth experiences don't match up with their ideal, women whose children were born healthy and perfect, but for whom there was still a letdown because it wasn't how they imagined it.  Just the other day, I saw yet another post about childbirth being a beautiful, spiritual experience.  I asked my husband if that was the moment when I called everyone in the birthing room a liar (including him.)  Come on, ladies.  Isn't having a baby hard enough without saddling ourselves with the pressure to be spiritually present?  I mean, I'm not suggesting that there aren't women who feel that they're childbirth was a spiritual summit, but maybe, just don't go in expecting it.  Kiddo came six weeks early and was whisked away to the NICU almost as soon as she breathed room air.  I didn't get to hold her until hours later, and even then, it was for a limited amount of time, and she was hooked up to countless wires and monitors that beeped and whistled at us non-stop.  If I had spent months picturing a movie-perfect moment of our eyes meeting as she was laid on my chest seconds after delivery, I might have been devastated.  As it was, I was simply grateful that she was okay, well-cared for, and out of my body.

Please understand that I am not putting myself forward as having done everything right, or even as the killer of all magic.  There are beautiful moments of grace in our lives, but they are different for everyone, and speaking as someone who has battled clinical depression for many years, I have found it helpful to focus my energy on appreciating that first intentional baby smile or that first "I love you" from your wobbly toddler rather than trying to imagine what that next magical moment of grace might be.

Ultimately, so much of life is about hard work, about doing what you don't want to do.  It's not pretty or glamorous or effortless.  In fact, it is the very opposite of effortless.  To quote one of my favorite Mary Engelbreit posters, "Life is just so daily."  (Emphasis mine.)  I get it.  We all could use a little more magic in our lives to break up the monotony of the slog.  But I am of the opinion that magic cannot be manufactured.  I understand the impulse to make every moment of our kids' childhoods so fantastically happy and magical that they nearly burst with joy, but mostly kids (like us) find joy in small things that have little or nothing to do with the perfectly coordinated birthday party you just arranged.  So parents, are we simply wearing ourselves out to raise kids with ridiculously high expectations?  And really, I don't care how well you plan a party, some kid's always going to eat too much icing and puke in the bouncy castle.  Every time.

The area where I most struggle with this mindset, however, isn't in my wife and mother roles.  It's my writing.  I know writing is daily.  It's sitting in front of my computer and typing and typing and revising and revising until I (maybe) have something that someone might want to read.  Yet, I find myself dreaming of the perfect story when I could be working.  (Sometimes literally.  Any other writers out there who dream about plotting out stories?)  I find myself fantasizing about success instead of sending out work.  This blog is part of my keep-ass-in-seat strategy, in fact.  Sometimes it even works.

So now that I've alienated as many readers as possible, I will wrap this thing up.  But seriously, I believe this is something important to think about, particularly for people who struggle with depression.  It has certainly helped me.  So now, I will put my money where my mouth is (obligatory cliche) and show you my less-than-fantasy homemade, Frozen-themed birthday cake.

1 comment:

  1. "Life is just so daily." Mary Engelbreit...hmmmmm...I like it. Thanks for the reminder to intentionally enjoy "daily". Moments can slip away unnoticed.
    Have a blessed day!