Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Home Renews the Heart

Every once in awhile when an element of my life falls out of balance, I find myself temporarily out of touch with my authentic self. This week I have been on a quest to renew myself and tune back into authenticity. I haven't been writing, because nothing bothers me more than to write when I lack an authentic voice---or at least, a solid grip on my authentic voice. Writing can be many things, but for me it must be true. Yet because I have not been writing (even falling behind in my gratitude journal), I am even more removed from the place in my heart where I am most genuine. A vicious cycle. I finally got frustrated at myself yesterday when I tried to write something and found myself completely at odds with my search for my authentic voice in the piece. When a voice (and I do mean voice, specifically, and not rhetorical devices, which one can alter to suit an audience) is really authentic, it can be itself anytime and anywhere, to any audience---and even if the audience doesn't agree with the message, one hopes that at least the audience recognizes the sincerity.

For me, especially the older I get, I am becoming more of a stickler for this: if it isn't sincere and authentic, it is not really worth doing, or perhaps should morally not be done. Debate can ensue on the latter half of this statement, readers, if you wish. ;-)

Lately, with my tendency to burn candles at both ends to work on personal projects and business and the natural tendency of children to awaken in the middle of the night (Katie, at 3, still wakes up most nights for comfort), I haven't been getting as much sleep as perhaps I should. Eric has started sleeping for many-hour stretches, which helps, but I still find myself conditioned this week to wake up at his previously established feeding times. My mind then starts whirring and just when it starts to get sleepy, one of my children will wake up. So, sleep has been out of balance.

Finding those moments of personal rejuvenation has also been a little out of balance this month. Of course it is, with two children, and that has a tendency to happen as an involved mother. I prepared myself for this period many months ago, knowing it would occur. I remember that one of the major benefits of college and learning to live with roommates is that I had to make my private spaces in my mind---mental compartments I could go into for a moment to revitalize even when there were people around me. I need to work more at tapping back into those peaceful areas, even in the midst of busy and happy noise. I have been working, too, with Katie on learning to entertain herself a bit when I am working on business or other projects. At almost every moment of her life, I have entertained, played with, stimulated, talked with, and taught her---and done almost everything else while she was napping or asleep for the night. Since she has almost entirely phased out naps, we are working on a new dynamic. I know that in the long run we will be able to work on separate projects side by side, but it is taking quite a bit of creative effort to give her the confidence that I still love her and acknowledge her when we are working on separate things or when I need to give concentrated attention to Eric.

Thus today I tried to go back to the source: gratitude, simplicity, and appreciation for home. Whenever I start feeling out of balance and out of harmony with myself, I begin the return journey by giving my thanks. Something about the simple act of identifying the parts of life for which I am grateful gives me the perspective I need to laugh at myself, find my creativity, and give the deeper parts of myself to my husband and children.

So it was a day of playtime and art and baking cookies with my children. For me, often, when I focus on filling up my childrens' cup, it so happens that in the end I also fill up my own. We return to the less complicated joy of simply being with one another and letting home renew our hearts. That joy is the reason I am able to write tonight, authentically and more in harmony with myself. I've never had a job outside of the home that was more demanding, or rewarding, than raising these two kiddos. I've never had a job that required more of everything I have to offer, or that asked me to reach deeper into my stores of energy, patience, intelligence, or, sometimes, sheer willpower to keep going on those exhausted days. Late last week I did some business writing for my dad's website, and that actually felt like a break or even a hobby! The mothering gig makes writing an eight to ten page paper on literary theory for a graduate level course in college seem like child's play.

Today, we played with joy in mind:

 Eric and Katie work on "tummy time." He is getting stronger!

 Sweet kiddos!

 We put on our paint clothes and painted a wooden stool for Katie to use in the downstairs bathroom as she washes her hands.

 We each painted a part of it. Katie explained her swirly technique to me, and I learned from my daughter how much fun it is to blend colors at whim and see what beauty arises (instead of trying to be so Type A about it, which is how I usually try to paint---and which is why I am not a visual artist). ;-)

 Eric in his bath. Oh, he loves his bath! He likes to suck on clean washcloths just like his sister did.

 Baking cookies. We tried a healthier recipe today: lower carbs, lower fat, lower sugar. They are moist and tasty. Thanks, Ellie Krieger!

Katie still loves her magnifying glass. I love how her own face is magnified here.

So, I am wishing you all an authentic week, and a week in which giving thanks is a means to remember the truest source of your joy.