Stay With Me – Ignoring That Pile of Dishes In My Sink

Last week I felt like I was constantly rushing. Rushing downstairs when I woke up to make the coffee and get myself ready. Rushing to rouse the girls and help them get dressed and brush their hair. Rushing out the door and heading to daycare drop-off – making sure I pulled into the parking lot precisely at 7:15. I knew I had a one minute buffer but if I arrived at 7:17 I would pull out of the neighborhood later than I should and I would get stuck behind the bus  – which would make me panic throughout the rest of my drive about being late to work. After work, I rushed to get a quick workout in and then rushed to pick up the girls. I headed home to tidy the house a bit and make dinner and before I knew it the whole process started again. It wasn’t very pretty.

Thankfully, there were moments when my children reminded me I needed to slow down.

“Mama!” she called from upstairs.

I was unloading the dishwasher so I could load it again with the dirty dishes that were overflowing in the sink and I hadn’t yet started prepping dinner.

“Come down, babe!” I yelled up the steps. If she came down, I could talk to her while I got some work done.

She didn’t come down.

“Sweetie, come down!” I yelled again.

She still didn’t emerge.

Annoyed at being disrupted from my list of chores I wanted to check off my list, I went upstairs and saw her sitting on her blanket, leaning her head against a pillow in her “fort” (which is really her closet). She looked up at me and let out a muffled sigh.

I took a deep breath and ducked down beneath her hanging dresses and sat next to her. She leaned into me.

“What’s up, kiddo?” I asked.

“Sister doesn’t want to play with me.” she replied.

I put my arm around her little shoulders. “Sometimes sister wants to do other things. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, it just means she wants to do her own thing right now.”

“I’m sad,” she said.

“I’m sorry you’re sad.” I sat with her for a couple of minutes and then kissed her on the head and started to get up to head back downstairs.To where my work was.

She put her hand on my shoulder. “Stay with me.” she insisted.

I looked at her small shoulders hunched over and the downturned corners of her mouth and I took a deep breath and sat back down. To where my work really was. We sat next to each other in silence. I tried not to count in my head how many minutes we were sitting, and how many dishes I could put away in that same timeframe. I reminded myself that I enjoyed sitting next to my child.and feeling her warmth and her weight pressed against me. I reminded myself that sometimes the dishes really can wait. I leaned my head against hers and rubbed her back.

After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Thanks for helping me. I feel better now,” and she popped up and walked out of the “fort” ready to head back downstairs.

The anxiety I had felt about taking the time to head upstairs had been totally unfounded. In reality, it had taken only five to seven minutes of total time, starting from when I yelled up the steps from the kitchen. Five to seven minutes to help my daughter to feel loved and secure and able to regroup. Five to seven minutes are so important when you think about it that way.

The pile of overflowing dishes will get done, eventually. They won’t sit there forever.  My kids won’t need me for that long.

A Fading Heart

Baby Grouch is still small but she isn’t really a baby anymore. She pretends she is a waitress and asks, “What would you like today?” and she says, “This is my coffee.” as she takes a swig of milk from her sippy cup. She “reads” her favorite books – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Baby Giggles and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She’s heard them so many times she’s memorized every word.

Currently, one of her favorite movies is Tarzan. Her favorite part is when Tarzan presses his hand against Jane’s and notices that their fingers align perfectly. She holds her own hand up, palm facing out and fingers pointing to the sky and says, “Go like this.” I press my hand into hers and I hold it there until she pulls away. It always surprises me how long this sustains her attention and how her tiny hand is able to push against mine with a firmness many adult-sized hands don’t possess. Tarzan leans his head into Jane’s chest and his eyes widen as he listens to her heartbeat. Baby Grouch puts her head against me and smiles when she hears mine. She pulls me close to her and I hear her rapid whumpa-whumpa-whumpa in return.

I get transported to the 12-week appointment where we waited anxiously to hear that sound. Just a week before, we stopped hearing the rapid beating from Baby A and Baby B so we were very nervous about whether or not we’d still hear Baby C. It took forever for the nurse to find that sound and when she finally did I pretty much lost it in the office.

She’s always been the fighter.

When she’s not playing Tarzan, she sings at the top of her lungs and she bangs loudly on her drum set. She presses so hard when she colors that waxy smears of crayon obliterate the image printed on the page. She deftly snips with tiny scissors and cuts a single sheet of paper into a million pieces that litter the art room floor. She screams when she’s happy. She screams when she’s not. She screams so loudly it hurts my eardrums. She demands that I pick her up and then put her down. She yells “Help!” and when I ask her to try again and “I can do it!” when I offer assistance. She tears off her shirts and her pants so they don’t encumber her as she leaps off of the sofa. She giggles when she lands on the floor with a thud.

She is tough.

When she takes off her shirt and tosses it aside, I can’t help but notice that the heart-shaped birthmark on her back – once blood-red – is almost imperceptible now. The doctors told me it would probably fade away but I wasn’t so sure. It was so bold before. For me, it’s always been a stark reminder that there were others with her for a brief time.

Sometimes I watch her with amazement and feel the odd sensation of deeply missing something I never really had in the first place. Sometimes I stare at her in awe and think that what I’m missing is what allows me to retain a small shred of sanity.

Lately, one of her favorite songs is a Phil Collins number from the Tarzan soundtrack. Like her favorite books and videos, she likes to hear it over and over and over again. I sing it with her, I sing it to her, I catch myself singing it even when I’m by myself.

“You’ll be in my heart. You’ll be in my heart….allllllwaaaaays.”

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I’m Ten Pounds Overweight and I Cannot Be Bothered to Even Try to Lose Those Stupid Extra Pounds

I used to care, you guys. I used to REALLY care about my thighs. And sometimes my arms. If they weren’t as toned or as thin as I thought they ought to be, it really ruined my mood. I wasted a lot of good years being moody about a lot of stupid things, one of the biggies being my body. I’ve reached the point where I am working actively on being happy and I’ve crossed off my stupid thighs from the list of things that determine my happiness. Here are some reasons why:

Stretchy work pants exist. Seriously, these things are the champion of all chaps. You know how clown cars can hold a ridiculous number of people in their teeny-tiny automotive space? These pants are kind of like the that – you can fit a ridiculous amount of your stout self into a seemingly tiny leg hole. I will forever own pants made of “super stretch” material, whatever the hell that is. They are comfy and cozy and don’t overly embellish my flaws with weird curves or creases. Plus, I can run, skip, hop, or do a reverse roundhouse kick if I ever needed to, without splitting a seam.

Some foods really do taste better than being skinny feels. Anyone who tells you otherwise has some sort of deep-seated psychological turmoil going on. I mean, come on. Bacon, pizza, nachos, chocolate…wine…need I say more? Every time I am on a restrictive diet I am CRANKY as hell. Or at least not nearly as pleasant and boisterous as I am when I’m eating what tastes good. And in case you didn’t realize, SO ARE THE REST OF YOU. Trust me. People who want to hang out with other fun people generally do not choose to surround themselves with the ones who refuse to eat anything other than kale and baked chicken breast. There’s a reason for that and it’s called being laid-back and happy. I’m quite sure there’s some research-based study waiting to happen out there that could prove this. (If you’re running the study and looking for participants, I want in as a control subject. Can I get paid to eat nachos and report my mood?)

Being overweight doesn’t equate to mushy and out of shape. Not only does skinny not equate to happy, it also doesn’t equate to healthy. Even though most of my pants are a bit snug these days, I actually am more fit than I’ve been in a while. I’ve been focusing on working out some previously neglected muscle groups and have been pleasantly surprised at the results. My hips are stronger, my ass is stronger, my arms are stronger, my core is stronger. I am physically more capable than I’ve been in a while. I’m so much stronger than I was in the past, though not nearly as svelte.

My body is just a shell. My extra ten pounds are not ME.They just give my passions, my ideas, my insights (and okay, yes, my organs and definitely my ass) a little extra cushion. When I’m doing something that gets me excited, makes me feel alive, makes me feel strong, or smart, or ridiculously silly, I forget to notice my body. I need to fill up my life with more of those things. No matter how big or small they seem, and no matter if anyone else around me understands why they make me feel so good, THOSE ARE THE THINGS.

I know I won’t give a shit about those ten pounds years from now. Years from now, I’ll look back and think how great I looked, because I will be old and wrinkled and lumpy. Do you ever notice how old people who are too skinny look kind of like gross crepey-skinned skeletons, but those who have a bit of chub look a lot healthier? So really I could just be giving myself a little boost for looking my best as a senior. That could be my prime, who the hell knows? Or maybe I’ll go just be a real disaster and I’ll have bunions and skin tags and a bladder that is sitting precariously perched, far too close to the outside of my body. I could have dementia, or cancer, or a degenerative disease that makes it difficult to open jars or go for a walk or maybe even to just comfortably sit. Or maybe I won’t even be here at all. It seems rather prudent to get over my physical self now and move on with more important things in my life.

I’m over caring about those last ten pounds. I Can. Not. Be. Bothered.

Hooray.

 

Don’t Worry, Second Child. I Love You, Too.

Dear Second Child,

Yes, the first child has so many photos.  So many intricate descriptions in the baby book. So many mementos.  So many journal and blog posts oohing and awwing over them.

As the second, you might feel a little neglected.  Where are my eight million photos categorized by month? Where’s my blog post about the first coo or the first “Mama!” or the first taste of a lemon?

My first inclination is to apologize.  However, that would imply we had some sort of choice in the matter.  You want the truth?  Well, kid.  We were just busier after having you.   It’s as simple as that.  And some of the things we wrote about the first time are the same with you.  So, we already wrote about it.  What about all the comparing?  The second is nothing like the first, you might have heard. In some ways that is true, and in some ways it isn’t. We don’t usually feel the need to discuss the ways it isn’t.  We already discussed the parts that are the same the first time.

But, don’t think about it too much.  Don’t over-analyze.  Don’t worry. We love you.  Just as much as your older sibling.  You might think I have to say that to you, but guess what?  I DON’T.  I don’t have to say anything to you. There are trillions of choices of word combinations I could put together and shoot your way every day.

Everything I say to you, I mean.

Remember that.

And you might think, “How is it possible?  How can you love me the same?”

And my answer is, “I have no idea.  It is a biological mystery, how it works, but I swear to you, it just IS”. One moment we look at our oldest and we think, she might be the most beautiful person on the entire planet.  And then we blink and look at you and think, she might be the most beautiful person on the entire planet, even if the two of you physically look absolutely nothing alike and, at least at times, act nothing alike. These thoughts may not always come to us within seconds of each other, or even hours of each other, but believe me, they happen.  In equal amounts.

We don’t always love you in all the same WAYS but we love you the EXACT SAME AMOUNT.

Here are a few examples of how that makes sense in our heads:

Sibling One Sibling Two Our Thoughts
She’s so calm. She’s so energetic. That trait will REALLY benefit her in the future.  (And, wouldn’t you know it, when she wants to be, she’s damn good at being energetic/calm too. Impressive!)
She’s so serious. She’s so goofy. She’s so great.
She hardly complains. She complains loudly! What strength she has!  It’s so hard to not complain/speak your mind. She will use this to her advantage in life.
She giggles. She guffaws. She has a good sense of humor.  She is happy.
She has an innie. She has an outie. She has the cutest belly button.  Poke!
She observes by looking. She observes by touching. She is such a good observer.
She likes to be held. She likes her back rubbed. She’s able to connect with others.
She pauses. She dives right in. She’s wise.
She whispers. She yells. She communicates.
She paddles. She splashes. She swims.
She loves her sister. She loves her sister. May they work together and complement their strengths and create the greatest force ever to be reckoned with.
She knows how to push my buttons. She knows how to push my buttons. She is not a lightweight.  She will be able to hold her own.
She is my first. She is my second. She is my only her. She awakens me, livens me, fills me up.  She is my child.
She surprises me. She surprises me. She is who she makes herself, not who I think she is or will be.  She consistently proves to be a better person than I could ever imagine anyone could possibly be.

Love you, Second Child.  Love you forever.

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Human Light-Brites

There’s this thing called face blindness.  Some people have it, and it makes it really hard for them to recognize others, even those they interact with often. Face blindness can compromise the ability to form lasting friendships or positive networking connections because a lot of people aren’t aware this exists, so it just seems weird when someone doesn’t say hi to you or notice you when you’re right near them.  Once you know this is a thing though, you can help someone with face blindness by reminding them of who you are when you greet them, or you could work with them to come up with some type of cool code or signal to implement so they will recognize that.

I sometimes think I have a similar type of condition, except it’s not that I don’t remember what people look like, but instead I just don’t notice superficial changes in appearance. I’m not the best at noticing new hair styles or new jewelry.  I don’t notice if you’re wearing a new lipstick, or shadow or if you’re even wearing makeup at all.  I suck at recognizing a fresh mani-pedi or new pair of pumps.  I hate to admit this, but even when my own mother developed a condition that deforms the structure of bone and it started warping her skull, pushing one eyeball out a little further than the other one, I didn’t notice it until she pointed it out. Once she did, I couldn’t unsee it, and it stayed that way for a month or so, I kept ogling her orbs. I still know that one eye looks a lot bigger than the other one does, but now, since I know it isn’t caused by a brain tumor or other life-threatening reason, I’m back to not noticing it again.  All of those visual characteristics people often pay so much attention to just seem really fuzzy and irrelevant to me.  I sort of get a glimpse of where those with face blindness are coming from.

Sometimes this causes problems.  Like, “Hey, don’t you like my haircut?!” asked in a way that is not really a question but is more of an accusation.  A lot of women seem to get mad at their spouses for not noticing those things, but maybe it’s really not so bad.

While I might not notice your new spring wardrobe, I also don’t notice when your face is dripping with sweat, or you are smeared with dirt, or you have a million rogue eyebrows shooting off in all directions.  I don’t see that the tank top and yoga pants you are wearing is the same one I saw you in yesterday.   I don’t see that your eyes have no liner or your shirt is wrinkled or you have a blemish on your skin.  But, it’s not like I’m not paying attention to you.   I still totally SEE you, just in a different kind of way.

We took Toddler Grouch to a museum not that long ago and they had a vertical wall full of holes, and huge colored plastic pegs you could push into them to create any pattern or shape you desired.  I snapped a photo of her and it looked like this:

lightbrite

This is sort of how I see you.  I see a basic outline and a few details of what you look like, but it’s the lit-up board in the background that I really focus on.  The background is part of you, too.  Each peg represents some positive quality you have, so a blue peg might be your compassion and an orange peg might be your commitment and a white peg might be your honesty and a green peg your humor. There are pegs for your interests and activities, like running, or singing, or sailing, or crafting.  There are pegs for positive parenting and pegs for your kindness and concern for others. There are pegs for your listening and pegs for your sharing.  There are even pegs for your anxieties and your fears, if you’ve been willing to honestly expose them.  I will admit that I while I do sometimes appreciate superficial beauty, that’s only one peg, so if that’s all you’ve got, your background still looks pretty dark and dreary, but if you’ve got all the rest of the pegs on the board filled, missing one isn’t noticed. The more pegs you have the more lovely you are.  Toddler Grouch’s real board is packed with many more pegs than the one depicted in this photograph.

Not noticing everything about a person’s appearance makes some people upset. Some people want me to comment on their fancy watch or their coiffed hair, or their pushed back cuticles.  Sometimes I use this to my advantage to weed out those who care too much about looks, since many of those people have really empty boards behind them, or are so heavily guarded that trying to dig through their built up defensives to find their pegs takes more energy than I have available to expend. Maybe people who deal with face blindness weed others out in similar fashion.

So Lucky To Have Known Him

There were so many people at my high school graduation party that June.  I remember feeling surprised by how many there were, family members, friends, neighbors.  I had the same feeling at my sixteenth birthday party. I didn’t understand why all those people were there to celebrate something I found so insignificant.  I understand, now, as a parent, that the people weren’t just celebrating ME, they were celebrating for my parents.  She made it this far.  She’s doing okay.

That’s a pretty big deal.

I get that, now.

Everyone came, even my grandfather, who was ill, dying of prostate cancer at the time, but he was still doing okay, a little tired, a little weak, but he still had his same good-natured self, his dry, slightly strange, sense of humor.  He was always a good looking man, and even then as an old grandpa, I admired (and patted) his buzzed-cut hair and his square jaw, that always held a smirk. He was a strong man, a sports-watching, billiard playing, beer drinking man.  He was sarcastic, silly, and usually quiet, though it might be because he just couldn’t get in a word edgewise, being married to my Grandma.  He was caring. He loved us all so much, and he was never afraid to show it.

That party was the last time he made it to our house.

By Thanksgiving, at his house, he was so thin that at one point when he stood up at the dinner table, his pants fell off, and his Depends undies, with his thin little thighs poking out, were exposed. Oh, how we LAUGHED, because that is what we do, and that is how he was. And it was so funny, even while it was so sad.

When he knew it was the end, he wanted all of his children around him. He could not speak, with his mouth, even though he could still speak with his eyes.  I love you, they said.  You crazy suckers, they added, with a wink, that could no longer physically occur, but that was still there, in a twinkling sort of sense.  And he waited, an extra day even, for one of his children to fly in from out of the country, and once we were all there, we circled him, hands held together, in prayer, and said goodbye together.  And then he was gone.  If a death can be beautiful, then this was that death.

And even though I didn’t totally get it at the time, a comment my aunt made at my graduation party always stuck with me.  “You’re lucky”, she said, “to have known him”. Teenage me slightly scoffed at the remark.  Of course I was lucky to know him.  Did she think I didn’t know that? Because teenagers know everything and everything is about them.

I wasn’t fully able to process the fact that my aunt’s daughter, my cousin, was only a few months old at the time, so she wouldn’t remember her grandpa at all, who was so witty and so loving and so kind.  And that she was really missing a lot.  She is still missing a lot, from not ever knowing him.

Now that I’m a Mama, I get it.  I see my daughters with my parents, my in-laws, my grandparents, their aunts and uncles, everyone, that they are so lucky to know, now.

None of us are promised tomorrow, and every day that my kids get to spend with a family member that loves them is a gift.

It’s sort of everything to know where you come from and know how you became you. We don’t emerge from isolation, we are products of our genetics and our familial environment and the interactions between the two.

I’m trying to wrap my brain around how important it is, or why it is, but I know that it JUST IS.  Maybe it’s that it is a good reminder that many of our traits aren’t solely ours, but are mostly a modified collection of characteristics and quirks and beliefs passed down from our relatives, most of whom we didn’t ever know but who have influenced us nonetheless. I think about my grandpa often, and how right my aunt was.

family

Not a Whole Heart

I am the luckiest lady in the world.  I am healthy and happy and my biggest concerns are 100% of the first world variety.  My problems are of the luxurious sort; my grief is the easy kind of grief.

But no matter how much I believe that my grief is silly or my grief is selfish or my grief is self-indulgent, my grief doesn’t care.  I can squash it down for a while, or tuck it away in a corner, or rub it raw with my joys, or scrub it clean and sparkly, or run far away from it, but for some reason I can never seem to rid myself of it, not completely.

For even though I’m pretty sure we are done having children, and are more than content as a family of four, there is always a lingering tug.  At the mention of a loss.  During discussions of multiples.  It makes me grieve for those other ones.  The other three. Even though we did not hold them, did not see them, did not name them, it doesn’t mean they were not there.  They were still there.  I wondered what they would look like and who they would act like and I still do.  I just know better than to dwell on it.

Maybe it’s because we have it so good.  Two amazing little beings that we marvel at on a daily basis.  Two perfect specimen, exactly the same in terms of being healthy, strong, smart, kind, brave, cautious, silly, lovable, beautiful – but so not the same in terms of how they present those strengths.

Maybe it’s because we have a visual reminder.  Infant Grouch was going to be one of a triplet.  She’s the fighter who showed her strength not only by bruising me internally with her repeated kicks in utero, but simply by making it when the other two didn’t.  When she was born I gasped a bit when I saw the birthmark on her back.  Two-thirds of a heart.  Blood red.  It’s like she carries the fraction of the old whole around as a commemorative patch.

20150109_162905

I am not the same as I used to be, for a million, trillion reasons.  One of which is that I am a mama of two.  Another of which is that I am not a mama of five.

One of my all time favorite quotes from Regina Brett is, “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back”.  I believe that to be even more true than we can possibly imagine.

When I give both of my girls a bath, Toddler Grouch usually asks to see her sister’s heart.  Sometimes she says, “Ooohhhh” because she isn’t sure what to make of it.  I assure her, it’s okay.

That there is nothing wrong with having a heart out there for everyone to see.

One of Those Beautiful People

I liked how they looked on her, those creases.  Wrinkles curved around her mouth when she smiled…and when she didn’t. You could see her former struggles etched across her face and you could see her former joys crisscrossed on top of those. Aging, for her, was like the kind of weathering a sailor experiences – skin externally leathered from the Sun, but innards robust and healthy from the heavy lifting and extended exposure to all that fresh air.

Her skin sagged, giving the superficial appearance of something limp, something quite possibly defunct.  But, if you looked closely you could see that the burlapped layer of weary flesh drooped atop bone made of granite. Despite her frail appearance, she had solid cheekbones, a firm jaw, and a steady gaze.  If you took the time to really see her, you could see her vitality shining through the outer casing.  Once you saw it, it was as though her flesh became transparent.  Her spirit blinded.

She was one of those Beautiful People.

I don’t mean the ones with the clearest complexions or the most toned thighs.
The most beautiful people are the ones who are comfortable in their own skin.

She didn’t need the spotlight on herself, she didn’t need to be the top performer in every show.
The most beautiful people are the ones who lift other people up.

She knew her whole self, and she loved all of her parts. Even the really ugly bits she treated with compassion and care.
The most beautiful people are those who always work to become better versions of themselves.

She was one of the ones who had been through hell, and who had always remained determined to come out on top.
The most beautiful people are the fighters.

She wasn’t afraid to expose her true self.  She never denied her flaws. She never hid her strengths.
The most beautiful people are the ones who are real.

I liked the way they looked on her because I could tell that it wasn’t that her skin was sagging and lifeless, but rather that her whole self was uplifting.  Her epidermis was the only piece of her that couldn’t keep up. She saw me admiring her and she returned my stare with a close-mouthed smile, one that only hinted at the kindness buried just beneath the surface.  She pulled me towards her with bird-like arms and squeezed and I was reminded, again, that she was stronger than she looked.  I leaned in and rested my head on her shoulder, eager to be held, if only for a few seconds.  I foolishly wished that some of her beauty would rub off on me, that like her perfume, some of it would linger after she let go.

The Gratitude Muscle

Building strength can be hard.

The first part is deciding to get stronger.  That’s really the hardest part, even though it doesn’t even involve a workout regime.  It’s just a mindset, at first, a determination to make improvements to who we are.

Until it becomes habit, reminders are needed.  Sticky notes that say, “go work out!” and a calendar on the fridge with the workout plan on display, demanding to be seen.  Smiley faces are drawn on the days the plan is followed through and frowny faces are drawn on the days that aren’t.  Until it is second nature, strict discipline and careful planning are needed.

Over time, the body starts to crave the good feeling it gets from the workouts on its own. There is less reliance on the sticky notes and the calendars and more just listening to the muscles, noticing when they need to rest and recoup, and when they ache to be used.

It doesn’t take long for changes in the body to be noticed.  At first by you, and then by those around you.  Energy pervades, even when the muscles are tired, or sore, because they are stronger.  Healthier.  Everyone has slumps, but those who are determined find motivators: workout buddies or personal trainers, or bigger calendars on the fridge.  Even with a downward slide here or there, a fit person generally keeps getting fitter.

There are 206 bones and several hundreds of muscles that make up the adult body, but one of the most important, yet overlooked, piece of human anatomy is the Gratitude Muscle.

Just as the heart must be strong enough to pump oxygen and nutrients, and our bones must to be strong enough to carry our weight, the Gratitude Muscle is on par with those anatomical necessities – it must also be strong, to keep our mental faculties at peace and to make our physical presence worthwhile.

Children have bodies with natural strength, they exercise daily, through exploration and play, but over time sedentary lifestyles and self-neglect can cause atrophy to all of the muscles, including the Gratitude Muscle.  Even though the importance of staying fit is always recognized, we can easily become set in our ways and make excuses for why we don’t have time to learn, to play, to be grateful.  People without healthy Gratitude Muscles, can technically survive, but they.tend to live horribly dreary, unhappy existences.

The good news is that even if we’ve neglected our Gratitude Muscle in the past, we can always start strengthening it now, no matter how weak it may be.  If we have the desire, we can bolster our thankfulness, even if it is currently grey and mushy from extended disuse.  It is worth penciling in Gratitude Workouts, forcing ourselves to focus on what we have, and what is good.  Working to find gratitude in everything and everyone means pushing ourselves to new limits, which might tire us out, might sometimes cause temporary strain.  It can be uncomfortable at times, practicing gratitude.  The end result is worth it , no pain, no gain, as they say, and a little bit of tenderness can feel good, in this case, loving what we have so much it hurts.

The Gratitude Muscle is an anatomical necessity that must also be strong, to keep our mental faculties at peace and to make our physical presence worthwhile. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Gratitude Muscle is on par with those anatomical necessities – it must also be strong, to keep our mental faculties at peace and to make our physical presence worthwhile. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

 

We’re Full of Bull

My daughters come from a long line of strong-willed individuals.  Before they were born Mr. Grouch and I wondered what our kids would look like, or what they would be interested in, but one thing we knew for sure.  They’d be headstrong.  Our girls have aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, and, lucky for them, great-grandparents too, who are full of strength, who say to themselves, “I will be brave, I will not give up, I will not be stopped”, and who say to others, “I will be heard, I will follow my dreams, I will not be knocked down”.  There is wicked strength within each individual and we, as a family, are a formidable force when our energy is corralled in the same direction. An unstoppable herd.

We are bulls.

Toddler Grouch is at the age where her bullheadedness can sometimes be frustrating.   Like when she won’t put on her shoes, or brush her teeth, even when I say to her, “C’mon girl, we’ve gotta go!  We can’t be late!”  When she digs her heels in, asserting her independence and demonstrating her strong will, sometimes I call her my Little Bull. I place my hands by my ears, point my fingers up like horns, while I huff and shuffle my feet on the floor.  She laughs and mimics the gestures, repeating the phrase, “C’mon, Little Bull!”   Even when she doesn’t listen right away or when she blatantly disobeys, and I have to pull out my discipliny-mama voice, I’m secretly proud that she’s hard-nosed. There’s a lot of positive attributes to being a bull.

Mr. Grouch and I are both bovine in nature, both of us capable of being bullish to the max.  Our individual ability to persist, to push on, to persevere has, for the most part, served us both well, and when we join forces, we are unstoppable.  But, with any strength, comes complementing weakness. Bulls can lack grace. Bulls sometimes charge into situations, with their eyes on the prize, not thinking about the damage they may be inflicting upon anything in their periphery, with their bucking and banging, incapable of slowing themselves down. They can have difficulty seeing something from someone else’s perspective, seeing only the path that leads them towards their own passions. Bulls can be ornery and selfish. When Mr. Grouch and I are heading in opposite directions, the results can be brutal. We charge and we crash and when we’re back on track again, we have to sort through the debris, putting together the pieces that we unceremoniously smashed to smithereens.

As a family unit, we can not all be bulls. At least, not all at the same time.  Four bulls in a house, all traveling down their own paths, means inevitable, even if inadvertent, trampling, wrecking emotional havoc and/or physical destruction.  At any given moment, one of us needs to balance some of that brute force with a bit of softness.

So, how do we do that?  How does a bull not act like a bull?  Neither one of us can dramatically change who we are, but sometimes we can temporarily morph.  We fill ourselves up, taking in all of the happiness and joy and light-heartedness that comes along with being happily married, and rearing young children.  We swell with parent-pride, and transform ourselves into beings that are a little more graceful, a little lighter on our feet, with a little more bounce in our steps.  Figurative bulloons, if you will. Kinder, stretched-out-smooth, versions of ourselves that make it easier to wipe off the shit-storms that emerge in marriage and parenthood, allowing us to more easily clear away unpleasantness and filth with a simple swipe, instead of allowing it to fester, stuck in our fur.  Our bulloon selves are gentle to the touch, are buoyant enough to rise above our usual space of constant clamor, and are highly unlikely to cause any damage, even if we are to ricochet around the room.  It works, for a while, until we deflate, landing on the ground with a thud, the floorboards creaking under our weight.  Back to our regular punchy selves, we charge into action in our typical fashion until we need to fill ourselves up once again.