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Chase joy

I have a friend whose family immigrated to the United States after fleeing from an authoritarian, genocidal regime. My friend just had a baby, and observed privately that  her mom doesn’t much care about the things we find joy in — hobbies, careers, simply living — but that the baby… “babies are life.” And her gift to her mother is that joy that we all take for granted, which her mom is finally finding in the baby.

Today as I dropped my baby off at daycare, and watched her run around like crazypants with her friend Max, and then show Audrey and Elaine her painting she made last night, and listening to her tell Miss Molly and Miss Elaina about how she had potato soup for breakfast… I wanted to cry. That’s life. Right there. And how lucky am I that I can go have the career I love while leaving the kid I love at a place where she is so incredibly happy?

Very lucky.

I stopped on the way out of daycare to tell Miss Lori that I was grateful, and nearly started to cry. I’m exhausted. Justin’s sick, Gwyn is 3, I need to work more than I am to stay caught up, the stupid Christmas tree is still up, the laundry is overflowing, my husband and I are sniping at each other because we’re both tapped out and then we’re sad about being jerks, and I have a migraine brewing. So I walked from Childcare to my office chanting “You can do this. You CAN do this.” Then I noticed a student ID card on the ground. I picked it up, and turned it in at the PACES office, thinking about how that student needs her ID to eat today. When I got to my office I emailed her, telling her that her ID had been turned in, because if that’s her lunch card, well. She needs it.

And that’s how I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it one small kindness at a time. Thanking Miss Lori. Returning the student’s ID. Nominating staff members for awards. Helping every student I can help. Raising my child. Loving my husband and building a home. Bringing joy where I can, and safety and comfort where joy isn’t possible.

Please do the same.

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Justin has Lyme Disease. (We believe; his doctor does, too, and there’s lots of circumstantial evidence like 3 other people testing positive from the same camping trip, but his test came back negative.) That means that for the last two weeks he’s felt absolutely awful. Exhausted, in pain, feverish, and generally sad and frustrated.

As a side effect, I keep wondering in the dark of night if I also have Lyme Disease. Or maybe mono (which has also been diagnosed in one of our Pennsic companions). Or cancer. Or a heart problem. (I LOVE my late-night anxiety.) Because I’m just tired. So tired. Tired from working, from parenting (Gwyneth is flatly opposed to daycare this year), from taking care of my sick husband, from having my household transition (Maggie went back to college, Zara moved in for the semester), from having my work transition (students are back!), from my own pain issues (bad shoulder times). Just tired. I took a sick day yesterday to take care of Gwyneth so Justin could rest, and I ended up taking two naps — one unplanned for an hour because G wanted to snuggle in the morning, and then in the afternoon while she slept. Both times she got up, and I didn’t even notice. Apparently the second nap she came and told me she was awake and I should wake up and I have absolutely zero recollection of that. I slept straight on through. So my exhaustion means I wonder if I’m silently dying. Thanks, brain.

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Last night Justin didn’t have much more energy, but he seemed like himself again. He was laughing. And making sweet jokes. And just… he was there. He was present. He was more than a sad, sick man. He was my partner. My Justin. This morning while I was at the chiropractor he got Gwyneth dressed for school, tortured her with a hairbrush for a while (let’s discuss toddlers and curls, shall we? NO. Let’s not.), and fed her breakfast. And I came home to a kid who was ready for daycare, and a husband who was smiling at me. He still feels like shit, but he’s back.

And just in time; today’s our wedding anniversary. We’ve been married for three years, now. I was 4 months pregnant when we got married, though we’d decided to get married well before Gwyn was conceived. Justin was the most patient partner I could have asked for during my deeply neurotic bouts of worry and concern and perfectionism while I was pregnant, and during my postpartum phase where I was even more uneven. He is an amazing father, and this life is what I wanted. And I have it.

There were the years before we got married, too, though. Those matter, too. We met in 2003, shared a circle of friends for years. We got together romantically in 2009, after the dissolution of our previous relationships. We were both pretty fragile, deeply frustrated, and uncertain about where we were going, at that point — lots of “anywhere but here” in our lives. But there was a whole lot of chemistry, and a whole lot of convergence of values and dreams and goals. We built this relationship on those three pillars, and we’re still building.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. It’s our wedding anniversary, but the three years since we got married are just a small part of who we are and what we mean to each other. It’s a marker to celebrate, though, and it represents the entirety of who we are to each other. And I can’t express clearly enough how glad I am to see my Justin emerge from his illness. I missed him. He’s crucial to my well-being. Just being with him and knowing he’s there makes me feel less tired, and less anxious. And that… well. I couldn’t ask for more.

I love you.

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Do not check your email.

Last night I listened as my daughter counted to 10, independently, by picking up 10 strawberries and naming the number as she put them down. Justin and I stared at each other in joyful amazement. What an awesome thing the human brain is. Of course, shortly after that she decided to run to the kitchen naked while getting her diaper changed for bedtime, and she finished her snack of strawberries and pears in the nude… and then peed all over the toddler tower. When it became annoying to her that there was a puddle, she put her feet out at the very edges of the platform and stood around it.  So we’ll get to potty training when she’s damn well good and ready, I think. Because right now she does not give a single fuck, and I have no extra energy to give to things she just does. not. care. about.

On that same theme, I had a fury breakdown at work last week. So mad I got up and left a meeting. Never done that before. But then I came back, and continued the dialogue, and we found common ground, and we agreed to a path forward, and our followup emails agree we did find common ground… it’s a good thing. I stood up and left, and walked the perimeter of my library, breathing and thinking, because I needed to let go of the emotion — release the thing I just do not care about — and find the core of strength that is my determination and confidence to accomplish the things I do care about. There’s a whole lot of negative energy flying around campus these days (the end of the semester is chaos time), and I need to release it from my head.

As part of that release, I went away from the real world this weekend — it was the May Kingdoms of Novitas event — and left my kid with her “brother” and extra parents. KoN is my home away from home. Those people are my family away from my family. That world is my world away from this one. I disconnected, I didn’t check my email, I trusted Gwyn’s happiness to Sam and Suzy, and I just played. I trusted that I can do this. That I am allowed to disconnect. That it’s okay if I don’t work — on housework, at my office, solving all the problems that were ever problems — every day, all day. And I played. LARPing is creative play for adults — and we always say children need play. I say adults need to play, too. And playing doesn’t have to involve drinking or sports with teams and rules… sometimes it can involve improv acting, storytelling, hiking, and hitting other adults with sticks. With rules. And teams. Some of them sort of mafia-like. But I digress.

I played. I hiked 5 miles. I told stories. I practiced my improv skills. I problem solved in a scenario where all problems had resolutions.  I ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs. I sat in the sun and laughed. I spent 36 hours with one of my families. I did not check my email. I did not think about whether my daughter talks enough, or when she’ll pee on the potty.

Worth it.

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“you do 75% of the cooking, at least 50% of the laundry, and you make the money that keeps our family safe, comfortable, and healthy. You’re not disappointing anyone. Take a nap.”

–my husband, when I mumbled something into my pillow about being afraid to disappoint him if I didn’t do… something…. other than nap.

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You know what happens when I don’t post or comment on Facebook for 24 hours?

I want to write elsewhere.

Imagine that.

So let’s reclaim that part of me, too. I am a writer. It’s a thing I do that has value for me.

So is exercising. This morning I did situps and squats with hand weights, and it felt good. Really good. Justin commented that I was walking differently when I got dressed this morning. I stood and paced during a meeting today and felt more at home in my body than I have in a long time. Let’s reclaim that.

I made dinner last night. Chicken thighs, turnips, parsnips, carrots, and mushrooms made into a stew/soup stuff, based on this recipe. Tasty. We ate it all. Reclaimed.

I have a novel on my bedside table. I’ve read some of it. Fiction. In print. Reading. Reclaimed.

I knit a cat toy — just a little stuffed squid — for Steve a few nights ago. Reclaimed.

What’s next?

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Kyle​ and Maggie​ kept my animals alive and happy, cleaned my house, and were super-awesomely-silly when we got home, and problem-solved with me through rolling power outages during the thunderstorm. Best housemates ever. We are going to MISS Maggie.

Then after I sent her to bed with her daddy, I cleaned the evening snack peanut butter art off the Pook’s kitchen tower and counters, sorted my laundry and G’s from our suitcases, found the checkbook and wrote out the two checks that Justin​ and I need to deliver tomorrow, started a load of diapers to wash, put away G’s clean laundry, hung some fly strips because fuck that noise, rearranged my calendar tomorrow to accommodate our ever-evolving schedule, and am tending to my email so tomorrow sucks a little less.

Also, the power came back on so I’m sitting in the cross breeze of two oscillating fans, which has improved my mood considerably.

That was a hell of a travel day today — Justin’s injured, and the Pook is a toddler, and O’Hare is O’Hare, and we aborted our landing and tried again from a second approach because of thunderstorms and then it was a 3 hour drive home — but honestly, I feel capable. I feel like I can handle this. Like my life is controllable and functional. It may be a fleeting feeling when the realities of my everyday existence hammer into me, but for now, I’ll take it. I’m grateful.

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I read some online listicle about being happy and it recommended reflecting on three good things that happened to you today. I make no promises to myself about doing this every day or even every week, but at least for today, here are three good things that happened this week:

  1. Crumb Library is getting new carpet and paint, and this week they began laying the carpet next to the paint and it looks as good as I hoped it would. I am looking forward to seeing the new life this brings to our spaces.
  2. The Applied Learning team is blowing my mind with their eagerness to participate in our planning process, their energy, and their initiative.
  3. My daughter is an adorable mess of curls, smiles, determination, screams, giggles, smears, tears, sand, chalk, applesauce, cat hair, shouts, and snuggles. She is amazing, and this morning she greeted me by pointing at Miles and saying “Kitty!” and then leaning in and kissing my cheek.