Thursday, December 12, 2013

choose joy, or don't

i see a lot of this "choose joy" rhetoric being bandied about on the interwebs. "talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. break the habit. talk about your joys." "no bad days." "a month of gratitude." "there is always something to be thankful for." etc etc etc.

Kate's Short & Sweets Printable

and don't get me wrong. i think these are amazing states of mind to aspire to. happiness is, or at least, can be, a choice. oftentimes it really is just a matter of remembering and appreciating and being grateful for what we have and who we are. and almost everyone in the world could stand to be reminded of this, myself included. i used to have a small stone that was engraved with the word "gratitude," and even something as simple as that was often enough to nip self-pity in the bud (butt?). until someone stole it out of my car. fucker. oh well. clearly s/he needed it more than me! ;)

anyway. you know. the whole david foster wallace "this is water" thing - this is it, this is your life, enjoy the ride, and when you're about to flip someone off on the freeway, or get into a knock-down-drag-out fight with the lady who snatched the last head of organic kale at the farmer's market, remember that they might be having a much worse day/life than you are. we can choose how we perceive and react to others, and to the petty annoyances and frustrations of day to day life. everyone in the world would be better off if we all chose to be more mindful of and empathetic to one-another. 

i try to be cognizant of all of this, but there is certainly a great deal of room for personal improvement. and you know what? sometimes we have bad days. sometimes everything just seems SO HARD and you feel like you are barely holding it together. at least, i feel that way sometimes. a lot of the time, actually. anyone who claims that their life consists solely of rainbows and unicorns is lying straight through their faux-perfect pie-hole. i, for one, appreciate honesty, and hearing people tell it like it is. i like knowing that i am not the only one. and sometimes it just feels good to whine. i'm not saying make a career out of it or anything, but sometimes you need to vent before you can let it go.

i dated this guy in college and he would drive me crazy because if i had a bad day or whatever, and i was like, oh i got a bad grade on a paper, or some douche bonnet grabbed my ass while i was serving drinks, or my place of employment made me wear a skort and a "kiss my taco" tank top on Tuesdays. then he would say "well it could be worse, you could have no arms" or "at least you're not the victim of female genital mutilation" or "you should just be thankful we live in the land of the free and the brave" and i would have to talk myself down from stuffing my degrading, tequila-soaked t-shirt into his face hole. YES. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POINTING THAT OUT. GOD BLESS AMERICA. 

i remember being pregnant for the first time - it was not my favorite thing. i got a smattering of the "oh your life is over" doomsday comments, but for the most part, people - friends, family, and complete and total strangers - spent the better part of nine months blowing smoke up my ass. while people referenced that "pregnancy glow," i was green with nausea. while others wondered over the miracle of life, i had raging heartburn, crippling exhaustion, and my joints and bones hurt so badly it reduced me to tears. women regaled me with stories of painless (<pfffffft! cough-bullshit-cough!) "natural" births: clean, warm bathtubs; a crown of fragrant wildflowers; faeries with flutes playing melodic tunes in the wings. epidurals are toxic. formula is poison. you and your child are one. it will all come naturally. you will know what to do. little did i know, these people were peddling a patchouli-scented pack of lies. 

i thought pregnancy was hard. then, i had a baby, which flat-out kicked my ass. i went through the first-pregnancy and new-mom phases with one of my best friends, Claire, who is one of the most genuinely positive and loving people you will ever meet. while i was suffering from the "baby blues," she had the polar opposite of postpartum depression. like, she basically had euphoric postpartum mania. 3 days post-baby: hot yoga, satisfying sex, scaling unstable beach cliffs with her sweet baby securely swaddled in the Ergo or Bob... all while deftly wrangling her baby onto a predictable schedule per the baby whisperer. she cooked up a storm (including filling our fridge with meals when Jack was born, even though she had a 9 week old baby herself!) she even cleaned and did laundry while the baby napped, which is not normally her forte ;) with SuperMom as my counterpoint, i couldn't help but feel like i was doing it wrong. not that she was misleading me. she was just a "natural" (a category of woman i had previously thought was a PR stint). but meanwhile i was flailing. (* i can report, with a small amount of satisfaction that, after having three babies in three years, said friend is finally showing 1/27th of the wear and tear i began to exhibit on day one of motherhood. we all have our tipping points. mine was conception. hers was more than halfway to a basketball team ;))

this was before i really did "the internet." i mean, i had email and facebook and stuff, but "blogs" and "forums" (about parenting or anything else) were not something i sought out. i didn't realize that there was a whole cottage industry of moms just like me, who maintain their sanity by laughing at, making fun of, and/or ugly-crying at the less than beautiful aspects of motherhood, and life in general. i wish i had discovered them earlier, because i think it would have helped me a lot, to put it in perspective, to pinpoint my specific location on the broad spectrum from shitty mom to supermom (and/or to realize it is a continuum, not just a box you may or may not be fit to check, and your location on said spectrum may vary from minute to hour to day).

i remember when my little sister had my nephew - before i even got married. i learned, much later, that she actually had kind of a rough time in the beginning. but from my point of view, at the time, it looked like she was handling it like a pro. baby slept. house was spotless. she was possessed by the spirit of martha stewart in the kitchen. it wasn't until after i had my own child that i realized how freaking hard it is. i remember calling her up and being like, "I am SOOOO sorry! I should have been there every day, bringing you food and doing your laundry and rocking that sweet baby so you could sleep. I had NO IDEA! Why didn't you tell me?!?!" but like most women, she had been conditioned to believe that pregnancy and motherhood are what we women are BORN for, and if you don't take to it like a duck to water... if you don't enjoy every single minute with that blessed little bundle of poop and tears... if you have to ask for help... then something is wrong with you

i am just so thankful that there are so many voices out there now telling you that it IS hard, that you are NOT crazy, that you can love your children and sort of kind of want to throttle them a tiny bit, too. 

and look. i probably take this notion too far. i am TOO honest, i share TOO much. DM always gets anxious when we are around people who are pregnant or new parents, because he's nervous i'm going to get verbal diarrhea and scare the shit out of them. he says "please, just try not to freak them out. yeah parenting is hard as hell, but they'll figure that out on their own in due time. just let them enjoy the last halcyon days of ignorant bliss." it's so hard for me to walk that line though... between honesty and negativity... or even explain it. this quote just about sums it up: "motherhood - the only way to experience heaven and hell at the same time."

but i do probably need to rein it in. a while back, one of my buddies was like, "when i hear Claire talking about kids i totally buy into the rose-tinted dream, but then i hear Mack talk about them and i'm like, thanks but no thanks!" and i felt SO bad. i mean, i LOVE my kids. lurve, lurve, LURVE them. running snarky commentary aside, i would not give them back for THE WORLD (at least, not permanently ;)). and for anyone to think, based on my bitching and moaning, that parenthood is not a worthwhile adventure is certainly not my intention. i talk about the trials and tribulations of parenting partly to get it off my chest, and partly because i just don't want people to feel duped when the reality hits them like a mack truck. but honestly, you cannot possibly fathom the depths of simultaneous love, shit and insanity that is parenthood until you are right in the thick of it, so i should just keep my trap shut. (editor's note: i probably won't.) 

DM actually said to me the other day, "you should really stop telling people you want to shake our babies. someone might think you're serious." fair point. but. okay. disclaimer. i have not and will not ever, EVER, shake my babies. i don't spank or throw things. i'm not much of a yeller. (as my mom used to say, "that was not yelling. if you want to hear yelling, i'd be glad to demonstrate.") but before i had my own kids, with that sense of righteous judgment only those without children possess, i could so confidently put that class of people (baby shakers) on a whole separate plane from myself... along with all the other soulless psychopaths with whom i have absolutely nothing in common. now that i have children, i have to admit, i at least understand the seed from which that urge stems, and i just have to trust that most mentally stable parents have some sort of biological disincentive for life-threatening violence against their own offspring. 

ANYWAY. kind of falling down the rabbit hole here. but. bottom line. i'm not saying it's cool to be an Eeyore or anything. nobody likes being around those people who are black holes of negative energy, bringing everyone around them down into the suck, like the midas touch except with shittiness instead of gold. all i'm saying is, "choose joy" when you can, but everyone deserves a little pity party now and again.


  1. I love this. Well said. Every day with my kids, I feel frustrated about something, I feel guilty about something, I feel grateful for something, and I feel happy about something. Sometimes I can choose joy, but sometimes not. And I use my blog for the same thing you do - to vent, to share, to hopefully make someone else laugh and say, me too, sister. Parenting is really hard. There's no way we're going to be able to "choose joy" when we're up to our elbows in bodily fluids all the damn time. So thanks for this post!

    1. thank YOU for reading, and understanding. this is why the internet is not all bad. so nice to know we're not drowning in bodily fluids alone ;) we're in it [the shit] together!

  2. Perfect. Now that I am on the other side of this, I kind of miss those days of madness. I used to make gratitude lists out of everything that went wrong with the kids simply to make myself laugh. Keep telling the truth.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Rebecca! It's so funny, I recently read someone's post about how something (I can't even remember what - making baby food? tummy time?) was so frustrating and I thought, that's crazy, because I felt the exact same way at the time, but now I am almost (*almost*) nostaglic for it ;) Good to remember when you're in the thick of it that you will look back on these days with fondness.