Stay Present

I have spent most of my life thinking about what’s next.

What will we have for dinner? Will the boys actually eat it? 

What do I want to try to get done tonight? Check the budget or take a bath? 

Do we have any plans this weekend? What can I plan? Who should I call?

When can we take a vacation? Where will we go?

I hang signs all of my cubicle and write in my journal, “slow down”, “one thing at a time”, or “be present.” I am never present. This has always been the case for me. I have always dreamed of a life just out of reach. My high school self believed that happiness was waiting for me in college. My college self sought my life’s true purpose backpacking through Australia and then by putting down roots in Austin. As a parent of young children, I often think how much easier things will be when the kids are older, despite that everyone with older kids tells me this is not true.

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23 year old waiting for an epiphany in Australia

If not now, when?

The pandemic, for all its havoc on the world, is teaching me to be more present. Most of my questions these days are pointless or cannot be answered any time soon.

When we will go on a vacation? Hard to say.

Do we have any plans? Absolutely not.

Will the pandemic end? When will it be considered safe to do all the activities we did before? No one knows. Stop asking.

At first, I spent my initial pandemic days planning what I would do when this was all over. What adventures would I take? My mind still wanders there from time to time, but now I stick with today. Today’s project. Today’s fun. The little ins and outs of the day.

The boys help with their demands for right now. They struggle to think about tomorrow, let alone any time farther in the future. Anything they want is only in this very moment. It’s frustrating and freeing to live with people who have no concept of time, who believe they are being patient by waiting 20 seconds before shouting their desire again.

We spend as much time outside as we can stand. Each weekend we wake up to decide what adventure we might take next. Which nature trail will we go to? Should we take a bike ride? Go to the beach? We don’t know where we’ll go until that morning and then we pack up the snacks and hit the road.

Teaching the boys the joys of being outside is one of the things I dreamed of from the moment we decided to have kids, but it is typically far from idyllic.

Austin hates riding in the bike trailer, spending most of his time taking off his helmet and throwing things onto the road, but loves when we go on nature walks. At 18 months old though, he is constantly trying to wander off trail to grab everything and frequently cannot be persuaded to leave a mud puddle behind. We let him walk every so often but mostly carry him on my shoulders or in a carrier.

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Haines could ride all day in the bike trailer but refuses to walk any trails. We leave him on a bench thinking he will get up and follow us eventually, but have to go back and get him. So we take a stroller everywhere now, which drives me insane. Tyler, more tolerant, pushes him over tree rots and carefully navigates down hills. When I have to push him for even a few minutes I am instantly angry and annoyed.

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But when you are out 3 miles from home on a bike ride or mid-trail walk, you just have to deal. You pick the pacifier up out of the road and put it in your pocket for the 5th time in 15 minutes. You shove the stroller through the soft sandy trail and look up. At gorgeous green trees, at yellow butterflies, at birds. When Austin hears a bird, he will grab his ear to indicate he is listening or shout “caw caw”. He bounces up and down on my shoulders with delight. Haines wants to see every flower, wants to know about every animal that might live out where we are. What do birds eat? Why?

These bouncing boys, our beautiful surroundings, the world seemingly on pause, are constantly reminding me to just be present. And for once I am listening.

 

Eat. Move. Read. Write. Repeat.

I went to Target today. I’d like to say I needed some items but honestly, I just wanted to go. I wanted to feel normal. Walking the aisles of Target, child free, is an embarrassingly basic and boring joy but it’s one I was craving. But on the way I listened to the news of the impact on the music industry driving past empty parking lots and shuttered restaurant windows. Inside Target I felt guilty for indulging myself, silly for thinking this trip was a necessary boost, walking past employees in masks and gloves.

At work we’ve been discussing the long term impacts of the pandemic on the way we work, the way we interact with one another. How will corporate office life evolve? Some of the outcomes will be for the better, but it’s still overwhelming to think that this is one of those events, where we’ll never be the same. Whatever generation my children are, this will be one of those markers that defines their childhood.

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But those thoughts are bigger than today.

Every day I try to do four things- eat, move, read and write. It’s not much but it’s what really matters to my mental health. Eat food that nourishes me. Move my body, after sitting all day at my desk alone. Read, rather than watch TV, which I do too much of. Write, even it’s just a journal entry or a letter.

Read

I’ve started staying up later because we don’t have to get up as early to get the kids going. Getting up at 6:45 am is pretty luxurious so I often stay up to 11 these days which gives me time to binge TV AND read my book. I’m embarrassed to say on my nightstand tonight is a parenting book, because tantrums are ruling my life, but I also just finished two less embarrassing titles, both of which I would recommend.

Cape Fear Rising Philip Gerard

Disappearing Earth Julia Phillips

Move

I definitely get some movement chasing after the boys every day. Their favorite game right now is to climb on my back and pretend I’m their “mama monkey”. Since they climb me at the same time, this is quite a workout!

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This is always my view. It’s adorable but I’m about to get clobbered.

But I’m also trying to run a couple times a week, even short distances, as well as practice yoga. I have always been skeptical about doing yoga videos, but I’m now converted. Yoga with Adriene has been a total gift.  I recommend her Yoga for Uncertain Times videos.

I’m going to try Dance Church this week to feed my soul with music and move my body. A few evenings a week, I’ve been glad to get my toes tapping along to different artists via Cabin Fever Tunes. Most are country artists connected the Austin music scene if that’s your type of thing.

Write

I’d like to say I’m developing a nice consistent writing habit but my writing is as sporadic as my emotions in this pandemic. Still each day, I’m checking in and seeing what works. Today a blog, tomorrow a letter and so on.

Eat

My postpartum depression and anxiety took a toll on the way I eat this past year. When I got stressed out, I’d simply stop eating. If I ate, I would turn towards junk food- ice cream and Cheetos, that sort of thing. Now that I’m on medication and feeling better, I’m trying to ensure I eat all my meals and that I’m focusing on food that has actual nutritional value. The sweet tooth I’ve developed from months of terrible habits isn’t easy to kick, but I’m getting there.

We started a garden this year that appears to actually be growing things. We’ve been able to eat a couple arugula salads thus far so basically we’re doing better than we have the last 4 years!

Today I’m able to check off all my goals. There’s a new book on my bedside table, a blog ready to post, a yoga video kept me moving and I did some living room dancing. Tyler, current resident chef, fixed pizza for dinner.

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Love in the time of Coronavirus