What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Writing

Happy New Year, friends!

Ok, ok. The new year started nine days ago. I’m a little late to the game. But you know what? Technically, a new year starts every single second so there.

I decided to give myself a break from writing what with a two month old and the holidays and what not. But at some point, a break can become a state of being so I forced myself to take time to actually write.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about. But it is a muscle that has taken a good 3-5 month break because let’s be real, I haven’t written much in the back quarter of the year.

I couldn’t even get it together for the typical 2016 round up posts like my top posts of the year, my top Chinese posts of the year, my top books, etc.

So, what have I been doing instead of writing both to relieve stress, exercise my brain, as well as entertain you lovely people?

Here then, is a handy list:

1) Munching on Sasquatch.

Look. He’s two months and change and fat. SO DELICIOUSLY FAT.

He’s my last baby so dammit, I am his sole source of nourishment and he’s gotta be 15+ pounds by now and I MADE THAT so you know what?

I GET TO EAT HIM.

2) Playing Two Dots and its sequel, Dots & Co.

Instead of doing something productive like reading or writing or parenting, I play this mindless game. I’ve even thrown money at it. I’m not too proud to admit that.

I even got my brother, my sister-in-law, Cookie Monster, and some friends addicted.

I’ve done my duty to society. You’re welcome.

3) Read.

I finally got off my ass and started reading again. Ok, I guess I haven’t really stopped reading so much as took a month or so break from reading fantasy novels that really are a huge time investment.

It has been glorious.

I will be doing a book post soon so I will expound on those books then.

But needless to say, reading has been awesome. The authors are really stepping up their game.

However, this does cut into my sleep so I am tired. A lot. And this also does not help with the writing thing.

4) Stalked and overshared on Facebook.

Ok, that really isn’t any sort of new behavior. But it certainly has taken up a lot of my time.

5) Adulting.

Yes, yes. I have gotten a head start on my goals for 2017 and actually started to pay medical bills on time. (Seriously – this is the first time out of the four babies I have actually paid for the birth bills within six months of the baby appearing.)

I also submitted insurance claims and opened brokerage accounts and transferred money and added beneficiaries and made sure that if Hapa Papa and I were to both die that Sasquatch would get his fair share of our loot.

Priorities, people.

6) Avoided reading the newspaper.

Even though I have a digital subscription to the NYT and used to also read HuffPo religiously, I have completely stopped reading articles unless they are posted on Facebook.

I think I got burned out on the news during the election.

I know I should go back to reading because being informed during the Trump Presidency will be key to making sure our rights aren’t eroded and stolen out from under us.

But still. I needed a break.

7) Using my Instant Pot.

Okokokokok. I don’t want to overstate my actual usage. But I’ve used it 5-6 times since my friend came over and made me dinner so I consider it a win.

It doesn’t really take up that much time. I just wanted to brag.

8) Texting.

Again. Not a new thing. But I want to be honest.

Now that I list things out, I feel a little embarrassed. After all, you can’t call yourself a writer if you’re not writing.

(Although, really. Is it a constant state of writing that makes you a writer? Or you have to write a certain percentage of time? I mean, if you’re not actively seeing patients, you’re still a doctor, right? So how come you can only call yourself a writer if you write? Sorry. Tangent.)

Anyhow, this is just a pre-emptive pronouncement that there are BIG THINGS coming down the pipeline. And by BIG THINGS, I mean, just the usual. I just wanted to hype myself up to get excited about writing again.

Mostly, I just need to get back in the habit of writing and re-learning the fact that I can no longer dedicate huge swaths of time to writing (among other things) and need to figure out how to work productively in short spurts of time.

You know, be an actual grown up.

Alright. That’s it for today. What have you been up to during the holidays? Let me know in the comments.

Letting Go of “Should”

Lately, I’ve felt so blah. As if I needed a Life Makeover. New clothes. New hair. New makeup. New body. New habits. New life. Nothing particularly wrong with my current life, yet still, I feel unsatisfied.

The problem with any makeover or getaway, however, is that eventually, you go back to your life. Your real life. And even with new clothes, hair, makeup, or whatever, someone, namely you, still have to maintain and live your life.

What use are nicer clothes if you don’t wear them because your kids will just use you as a human napkin anyway? (I cannot tell you how many times I have to repeat to my children, “I am not a napkin.”) What use is my fancy haircut if it’s in that weird stage of growing out and I just have no patience for it anymore but am too lazy to style? What use is all my expensive makeup that I never wear except on special occasions? (And don’t suggest that I wear it on a regular basis because then I will have to also wash my face on a regular basis and that idea is laughable.)

Really, why can’t I just outsource my whole life and only reap the benefits? Can’t someone spend time with my kids but they will still love me and search me out? Can’t someone cook for me or clean for me or work out for me? (I suppose given enough money, I could hire a cook and a house cleaner, but I really don’t have the inclination to do that, no matter how I complain.)

The thing is, I can do all these things, but I already feel crushed enough by an ever increasing list of “things I should do.” And it’s not that these things are even bad things. They’re all good things. Things and activities I legitimately believe will make me feel better about myself and my life.

However. I have realized (finally) that I tend to crumble when it comes to expectations. Some people rise to the challenge. I am not that “people.” One of the side effects of my childhood and the demands to be the best and never quite being good enough, as soon as I get wind of any expectations (no matter how reasonable), I worry about failure and not being good enough or perfect enough. Instead of working ever harder to achieve a goal, I make a bunch of exacting standards and rules and things to achieve and I look at that list and say, “Fuck it!” Because come on! I will never be able to do all of these things so why bother?

For example, when my friend, Fleur, initially floated the idea of spending the summer in Taipei last year, I was game – but I made very clear that I was only tagging along for the ride. She would have to find the preschool, tell me where and when to apply, work out with the teachers, find a place to live, and I would just throw money at her. The thought of me doing anything was horrifying and terrifying and paralyzing. I didn’t want her to have any expectations of me.

And for some bizarre reason, Fleur was ok with that arrangement. What can I say? She’s awesome. (And one could argue that she was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well benefit!)

Well, a funny thing happened. Once there was no expectation of any work from me, I actually did the majority of the research for where we would live and found us a place over a weekend. That’s about the only thing I did though. (Fleur still handled all the applications for the school, found us places to eat, and went to places for us to buy things. I just went along for the ride and negotiated for cheaper prices.)

Without the spectre of responsibility, I had no problem looking for a place. I had no problem conducting actual research (which is normally anathema to me). Go figure!

And that’s the thing: I wanted to be able to disclaim all responsibility in case of failure. Why? Because I take failure personally. As if I failed versus a situation not working out.

For instance when we finally arrived in Taipei and the apartment I rented for the summer (and there was a repeat of the scenario when we arrived at the apartment I rented earlier this year in January), my mother showed up at the apartments and just basically did her Taiwanese mother thing and ripped the place apart. I was livid. I took things personally – as if this were my apartment and my fault. When of course, how was I supposed to know? I could only do the best based on my research.

But nevertheless, I took my mother’s criticisms as an indictment of me as a person. She was baffled (and not more than a little pissed off) that I was so upset and angry with her comments. She kept asking, “Why are you so defensive? This has nothing to do with you!” Except in my mind, she was telling me I had failed and that yet again, I wasn’t good enough. My best was just not up to par.

Of course, there are decades of parent/child dynamics at play here (and my mother is pretty much impossible to satisfy), but in general, why was I so upset when my mother was merely pointing out facts and reality?

There is definitely more to say about this topic, but I am exhausted (and starting this post rather late in the night), so I will table that for another time. Suffice it to say, my therapist, Dr. T, thinks that the next thing that would be good for me to work on is to let things go. To not see statements of fact (or opinion) as a judgment on my worth.

I have to tell myself that it is a “good thing to do” versus another “should.”

It’s a vicious cycle, my friends. Also, I now have Let It Go stuck in my head. You’re welcome. (Sorrynotsorry.)

May you have a should-free day.

How Did My Mother Do It?

I know I’m not unique in this feeling but can I just say that I often feel like a failure as a mother. I realize this is perhaps our generation’s invention and that we clearly have too much free time or guilt on our hands because in the grand scheme of things, who cares as long as our kids are happy, healthy, and alive?

But I honestly feel constantly torn because how I’m raising my kids seems markedly different from the way I was raised. For sure, a lot for the better (see lack of abusive father), but a lot not necessarily so. I realize most of us parents (but particularly mothers) feel like we’re failing because we compare ourselves so much to one another. So much so that this crushing sense of failure is completely fabricated in our own minds. Plus, most of it is perspective and seeing only part of someone’s life.

For instance, some people actually think I’m a Tiger Mom when in reality, I am far from it. I mean, by the time I was Cookie Monster’s age, I could already read, write, do addition, subtraction, knew my times tables, had played piano for a year, and could ride a bike. Cookie Monster can do none of those things. (Although, I suppose he can read and write over a hundred Chinese characters so that’s something. And now that I think on it, he can do very basic addition.)

I mean, compared to my own mother, I am a million miles behind already.

Also, I really don’t know how we eat.

I don’t go out to eat often with the kids so I must be feeding them something, but what exactly, I’m not sure. I buy a lot of fruit and snacks from Costco but not produce because although I hate the idea of frozen vegetables, I hate throwing away money even more. And when I buy produce, I really should save myself the extra step and throw my money into the trash can directly.

I feel conflicted because when I was growing up, my mother worked full time and yet still managed to come home and cook a Chinese meal of rice, soup, and at least 4-5 other dishes. I’m lucky if I can make pasta and dump ready-made sauce on everything.

It’s not even that I can’t cook. I can. I actually cook rather well. It’s just that I’m SO LAZY. And why cook when my kids will just refuse it anyway?

But I feel bad because food is such a huge part of culture and my kids aren’t getting much Chinese/Taiwanese culture this way (except when we go back to Taiwan – hmmm… clearly, another trip should be in the works, right??). Are my kids’ fond memories of food really going to be quesodillas and nuggets? This makes me want to cry.

But I really am SO lazy. So I make quick and easy and 80% guaranteed chance of eating type foods. And I make a lot of hearty soups. Not my mom’s – or white people’s – but some random hodgepodge. It tastes reasonably good, I guess. (But apparently, I make it too often because Cookie Monster really hates repeating meals. Little punk.)

Sigh.

My stomach is SO SAD.

I know I wrote last time about how it was a royal PITA getting Cookie Monster’s kindergarten registration stuff ready. How did my mom stay on top of this crap BEFORE the internet? I barely got it together and everything was online!

Did I mention that my mother worked full time? Sure, we had a nanny briefly, or a child care provider, but from when I was 9-10 years old, we were home alone. We were very independent and I could make rice, cook basic foods, and we watched hours of TV (with no ill effects), didn’t see much of our mom (who was for all intents and purposes, a single mom supporting us on her own without any monetary support from my dad while he was wasting our family’s money and fucking his way through Taiwan, but I digress) but I never felt deprived.

Somehow, she managed a career, our education, piano lessons, Chinese school, church, food, art lessons, horseback riding lessons, tennis, speed reading classes, and who knows what else, PLUS the daily task of keeping a household. ALL BEFORE CELL PHONES AND THE INTERNET!! AND THE INTERNET ON CELL PHONES!!

FFS, I’m a SAHM and other than preschool, my kids have no lessons. I can barely clean my house and feed my kids. WTF IS WRONG WITH ME?

AND HOW THE FUCK DID SHE DO IT?

My mom was a motherfucking Rock Star.

Denial Is A River

Lately, I’ve been trying out (again) Julia Cameron’s suggestion to write three pages a day first thing upon waking. The idea is to just write and brain dump everything out of your head and that will kickstart creativity. Even if you have nothing to say, you write, “I have nothing to say” (or something similar) for three pages.

It’s been less than a week.

Who knew my brain would freeze so early on in this daily process? I feel as if my thoughts are chugging through molasses. I didn’t think I’d have to resort to, “I have nothing to say,” over and over again for at least a few more weeks. I suppose constant interruption by Glow Worm isn’t helping but that can’t be helped. Otherwise, when would I get anything done?

I have to get used to this new reality. Which is hard because I insist on eating uninterrupted or reading or writing or cleaning or whatever. Of course, when I try to do these things during the day, I am interrupted constantly.

I hate that.

No, seriously. I truly despise it. So I try to cram in a whole day’s worth of stuff from 9pm-6am. No wonder I get nothing done because by 9pm, I just want to do fun things – certainly not write or do work or anything remotely resembling productivity.

Dr. T has repeatedly told me that I just have to get used to doing things in small ten minute increments during the day. Hapa Papa, too. But it is frustrating and I don’t care that I am in complete denial. LET ME JUST DO SHIT IN BLESSED PEACE AND QUIET ALREADY!

However, the other day, I was reading a recent Christianity Today article and the writer talked about how she was no longer able to have quiet times now that she is a mother. And that’s Ok. And her relationship with God still grew.

I can’t believe that was a crazy thought to me. OF COURSE her relationship with God could still grow. And yet the article was freeing. In fact, I DO think a relationship with God has to look a certain way – you know, like a college student with a moleskin journal, some hipster glasses, sitting in a cafe drinking tea leisurely or staring at a beach or something.

Not only that, I expect mealtimes or errands or cleaning or writing to look a certain way, too. In relative ease and silence. On a laptop in a cafe. Or in blocks of uninterrupted time. Which is crazy because that is no longer a reality. Or a remote possibility. Unless Hapa Papa doesn’t work and stays at home with the kids. (But then, we’d have no money or food so either way, these situations would not resemble my fantasies.) But even if he were at home, he wouldn’t particularly care for it if I left the kids to him the whole day (which I have done) all the time just so I could eat, run errands, clean, or write. He really is a saint.

I think a lot of times, I am so angry or frustrated because what I’m experiencing in a given moment is not what I had hoped or expected or wanted. Which is so crazy because how long have I been a parent? 5+ years now? HOW CAN I STILL BE SURPRISED THAT THIS IS MY LIFE?

But perhaps I’ve lived in denial so long (eg: lying about my father, to my father, to my family, lying about work to myself re: financial advising, lying to myself about my major or WHATEVER) that I’ve lost the ability to correctly see reality – especially as it pertains to me and what I want or desire.

OMG.

I just realized that I am rather inflexible a person. I am not as I previously prided myself in being – an easy-going person.

I have turned into my mother.

I am reminded of the high/low maintenance concept. (I always thought I was a low maintenance woman. But really, I am – according to Hapa Papa – the worst kind of high maintenance. I’m high maintenance but pretend I’m low maintenance.) It’s an alternative version of the Madonna/whore complex. Just another way to control women. To keep them in their place. To make us want to please men by having us compete and compare with one another.

But I digress. (And one day, I will write my overdue rant about high/low maintenance and how that is all just a crock of shit. But again, I digress.)

It’s like how I am with the kids. Easy going until I’m not. And you never really know when that threshold will be crossed. How are my kids ever to know when Mommy is going to be ok with something or not? Talk about walking on eggshells.

It reminds me of my father forcing me to listen to classical music and saying when he comes back, he should be able to stop a piece anywhere and I should be able to sing the next few bars accurately. Otherwise there would be consequences. Not sure what they would have been, but whatever. I would panic and right before my father came back to visit, I would play the tape over and over again (especially while I slept) so that I wouldn’t get in trouble. It didn’t matter. My father never remembered. (But what a way to kill enjoyment of a thing, yeah?)

My father really was a dick.

Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. Denial.

I think I would be much happier if I saw things as they really were: messy, chaotic, and full of frustration. Then, when my children didn’t miraculously eat everything quickly and silently, or when I inevitably ran late for school, or whatever, I wouldn’t go insane with fury.

I have more to say about Reality and Denial and perfectionism and how I often perceive people making truthful observations as judgmental and personally insulting, but it’s late and this post is meandering enough. I will expound upon that in some future post. Until then, we’ll see if calibrating my expectations to align more with reality makes a difference. Hopefully, that isn’t just another, subtler form of denial.

Wish me luck, friends! And give me some tips. How do you deal with your reality when it is not what you hoped?

Baby, I’m Back!

The hardest part about taking a hiatus from writing is getting back into it. I keep postponing writing and updating my blog, not because I have nothing to say, but because I’ve been a bit tired from the holidays and traveling.

But now that I’m forcing myself to start up again because, hey, new year, it may be a few posts before I get my writing legs back.

So… what has the Mandarin Mama Family been up to? Here are some recent highlights:

1) We went to Taiwan for two weeks with my brother’s family and my mother. Lots of visiting family, eating yummy food, and taking the kiddos to do fun things. (More on this in another post.)

2) Of course, because I was in Taiwan, I broke down and bought a few more “educational” items. But thankfully, since I was just there in July, I didn’t have too much more to purchase.

3) I hired an organizer and Jenn from Jenn’s Pretty Organized transformed my house. Every time I walk into my garage and my front room, I am super happy. I still have some work to do (nothing like the holidays and traveling to make a house insane again), but I will definitely talk more about my experience in a later post.

Just know that if you have organizational issues with your house and life, Jenn will change your life. She will make you sane. She is fantastic.

4) For the first time in several years, I failed to meet my GoodReads Book Challenge. I am somewhat bummed until I remember that I still managed to read over a hundred books in 2014. Yes, this is a humble brag.

5) I only managed to get a few things crossed off my “Get Done By Year End” list. I worry that now since my artificial deadline is over, I won’t do anything until the end of THIS year. Key things that don’t seem important but I want to get done anyway: 2014 Family Yearbook and Glow Worm’s Baby Book.

6) Finally made appointments for my three kids’ well-baby checkups. (They’re a few months overdue.) Nothing like a measles outbreak to spur me into action.

7) There was a lower than usual turnout for my annual New Year’s Eve party. I was pretty disappointed, but then, I realized that the party itself was a little more enjoyable for me because the flow was a lot more reasonable and I actually got to talk to a lot more people.

8) I was so happy that my nephew got along well with my kids. They were so cute together.

9) Since we just got back from Taiwan on Wednesday, jetlag is still kicking our butts. My older two kids are mostly switched over, but poor Glow Worm! He’s all time-shifted. He slept until 1pm this afternoon and screamed his brains out for several hours last night. (The past few nights, actually. And tonight as well.) I will be better about waking him up tomorrow (it helps that I have to take the other two kids to school and have a playgroup at my house) and hopefully, I won’t give into the temptation of letting him nap excessively.

10) I have finally unpacked from our trip as well as put away lots of things that needed to be put away in their proper spaces (eg: putting clothes in my new closet!). Also, I sold several items that we no longer use (due to the reorg) and I’m pretty pleased about that. It doesn’t exactly recoup the money we spent, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Ok. That is all my frazzled brain and hungry tummy can handle tonight. I missed you guys. Talk to you all soon.

Despicable Me

My thoughts are slippery, refusing to be pinned down. Every time I try to peer into myself head on, I catch my real feelings in my peripheral vision, already slinking back into the recesses of my secret, dark heart. When I still myself, a rising panic sits heavy in my chest; overwhelming.

I twitch.

It’s that feeling you get when you want to wail and gnash your teeth and weep but you are afraid to start. Or maybe, you do let some tears gasp out because they can no longer be contained, spillover water in a lock and key, but you don’t dare to really let it out. Even while sobbing into your hands in the nursery and your baby boy is toddling around, somewhat confused at what his mommy is doing, you don’t dare let yourself go.

What if you can’t stop? What if you cry yourself hollow? What if you cry so much that your insides are sucked out and then what are you going to do with yourself now that your insides are on the outside and your outside is stretched and gaping and loose and no longer tightly wrapped and ill-fitting and totally useless?

What are you going to do now if you are completely undone?

So you stop.

You stuff everything back into your too small chest and you wait it out. You breathe. You think of something else. You look at your baby boy and smile through the burning in your lungs. You check your phone. Facebook will rescue you. It always does.

That thick, dense boulder is no longer laying siege to your chest.

You get up and close the door.

There is a reason I keep dithering while writing this post. It’s been brewing in my psyche for months now, and coming to the forefront especially this past week.

It is an ugly thing to see your own sin laid bare.

Every so often, when we are discussing my father and my paternal grandmother, my mother mentions that my grandmother acted as if other people weren’t “people” (人家不是人). That in my grandmother’s eyes, only she and my father were “people” and everyone else was contemptible and stupid and worthy only of their disregard. And that is the reason my father never accepts responsibility for his actions, always blaming other people for “forcing” him to act in reprehensible ways. The reason why my father is always seething when other people, even his friends, succeed and surpass him. How could it be possible that people, who are so much stupider and less talented than he, have a better business/career/house/bank account/family when he is clearly far more deserving?

There is a Chinese phrase, “看不起 (kan bu qi)” which means “despise.” Literally, “can’t look upon.” Personally, I think the literal translation is far better at capturing its contempt and scorn.

“You have no idea how you sound, do you? The way you speak to me. To your mother. To your grand aunt. To my mother. To everybody. How you make everyone feel like they’re so unbelievably fucking stupid. Do you think so little of us that we can’t tell? That it isn’t obvious with every word out of your mouth? How dare you? How dare you?

I drown in shame.

When Cookie Monster was first starting to walk, he would often stumble and fall. I remember one of the first times he fell, I ran to his side and I hit the floor with my hand saying, “Bad floor! Bad floor!”

I froze.

A memory popped into my mind, crystal clear, of my grandmother doing the exact same thing when I was a child.

I never did that again.

This past week, a thought has been floating in and out of my mind. Occasionally, I catch a full glimpse of it before I banish it to the nether regions of my soul. Sometimes, I chase the thought down, trying to grasp it before it wisps out like smoke through my closing fist. Usually, I just change the song on the radio.

But it whispers back, sleek and seductive.

Other people aren’t ‘people’ to me until I hurt them.

The thought terrifies me. But it is not a surprise.

“Why are you being so mean to her? Can’t you try to imagine how she must be feeling? To meet you and Mom for the first time? As if meeting Mom weren’t intimidating enough, you’re being an asshole. Stop it. I care about her a lot. And if you’re going to be this way, I won’t want to come home anymore. So stop. Give her a chance. Be nice.”

Until that moment, I had only seen her as someone who wasn’t good enough for my brother (whatever that means and incidentally, is not true) and not as a person. Until my brother pulled me aside to rip me a new one, she wasn’t real. Only when I realized that I hurt her did I consider her a person in her own right.

This was not an isolated occurrence. To her or to other people.

Well here it is then. My not-so-secret confession: I believe that other people aren’t “people.” Only I am human. Only am a person.

At times, if I am feeling generous, I see my friends and family as extensions of myself so they are lent “person” status. Their injuries are my injuries. Their joys my joys.

But left to my default state, other people are obstacles. Roadblocks to getting what I want. If people aren’t interfering with my objectives, then I am easy going and pleasant. But as soon as we are in conflict, I suit up. And I play to win.

I get mine.

And then, if I hurt someone (as is inevitable), I am never quite sure if I feel bad because I hurt someone or because I don’t want to be seen as the type of person who hurts others.

You would think that I would at least consider my immediate family “people.” But alas, no. In true fact, I am worst to my family. After all, there are social consequences if I am a complete asshole to my friends and other people. That, at least, keeps me in check. Who, except those who have no choice, would put up with that shit from me?

It is hard to be my children. My husband. My mother. I am a hard person to be with.

I am a fucking two year old.

When I look back on my childhood memories, I have few of my mother. I’m not sure if it was because she wasn’t there, or if my father’s presence was so large, so looming, so hard, that he squeezed her out. I adored my father. His betrayal broke me. It isn’t until this past decade that I feel as if my mother has slowly, ever so slowly, emerged as a person in my mind.

The thought of this makes me weep.

I have no soft memories of my mother. No memories of her love, of her kindness. I mostly just see her, slightly out of focus, hovering in the background. Weak, unable to protect herself – let alone me. Steamrolled by my father.

You would think that now that I am a mother, I would be able to understand or empathize with my own mother better. That I would somehow grasp how my mother feels about me. How she must love me. I mean, if she loves me even a fraction of how I love my children, her love must be vast and unending. She has thirty-six years of loving me compared to my five of loving Cookie Monster. How much more must she love me.

And yet, when we fight, she is my enemy. I cannot fathom her coming at me from a place of love and concern. That she says things out of love and not as an attack.

I remember once, when I was particularly vicious, her pleading with me. Begging. Why did I think she was always attacking me? How could I even think that of her? That she only ever wanted to love me and would never dream of saying things to hurt me.

It is healing to watch her adore my children. Every now and then, it occurs to me that she must have loved me in the same way. Or at least, wanted to.

I don’t know. I can’t remember.

After witnessing years of my father crushing my mother, beating her down, I vowed to myself that I would never let anyone treat me this way. Ever.

And so, instead of turning into my mother, I am become my father.

My therapist says I do this because this was how I protected myself from my father when I was a child. That it is appropriate Hapa Papa says I “suit up” or “gear up for battle” (often with my children) because that’s what I am doing. I am putting on a suit of armor, this inability to see other people as human, in order to protect myself because no one protected me when I was small. And that this defense mechanism has worked for awhile, but now no longer fits. That I now see everyone as an enemy – even my children. That it is time to let some parts of this armor go.

I am terrified.

Jesus, have mercy.

Time Is The Real Killer

Walking into Peet’s Coffee, inhaling the scent of coffee and seeing all these grown ups leisurely sipping coffee and tea and chatting aimlessly, reading books and newspapers, living grown up lives, I feel a sharp pang of nostalgia. A deep yearning.

This life. I used to live this life.

It reminds me most of college and the early years post-graduation. A free and easy time. No mortgage. No kids. Nothing but time and money. Well, perhaps not a lot of money. But not many of us had a ton of money so it didn’t really matter. We had enough to be comfortable and do the small things we wanted to do. We lived in crappy apartments and ate out at cheap eats.

I miss LA, the city of my young adulthood. Home of late night cafes and Norm’s and lounging in Barnes & Nobles, pretending to do homework or write or whatever, but really using it as an excuse to hang out with friends and chatting deep into the night.

It’s true, what they say; youth is wasted on the young.

Had I realized at the time what I had? That most precious of commodities: an unlimited expanse of time ahead of me. A life unencumbered.

I’d like to think that I did but I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I wasted so much of my free time angsting over love and religion and relationships and boys and just really stupid, worthless things. Well, perhaps not worthless exactly. But certainly not worth the amount of time I obsessed over these subjects.

Why did I not spend more of my time reading, writing, eating, knitting, crafting, and risking? Why did I dream such small dreams? Or worse yet, why did I dream such lofty dreams and do nothing to pursue them?

And now, it’s not so much that it’s too late so much as I am so tired.

The only reason I am writing today is because I asked Hapa Papa a week in advance so that I could ditch the kiddos and sneak away to a café and write. I’ve been slacking lately and I know if I don’t right the ship and get back on course that I’ll blink and it will be another year gone and I’ll have let my thoughts molder by the wayside and BLAM! Next thing you know the kids will be in college and I’ll STILL be just a bundle of potential, a fantastic description when you’re young, a damning epitaph when you’re old.

I have to remind myself that like all things in life, this is only a season. A season of small children with big needs. A season full of small humans whom I love.

Yes, yes. I actually have to remind myself that I love my children.

I know. I’m a terrible human being.

I mean, it’s easy to remember when they’re snuggly and cozy and cute and agreeable and funny and hilarious and doing what I want them to when I want them to in the way that I have told them to. (You know, like good little robots.)

It is terribly difficult to remember when they’re cranky and tired and demanding to play more Halo or candy or cookies or juice because they are SO HUNGRY but yet refuse to eat their oatmeal or sandwich or soup or whatever else I’ve been tricked into providing because they said they wanted that for dinner but take one bite and refuse to eat anymore.

Not that I would know anything about this, of course. Purely a hypothetical situation.

To think that someday, in the near future, I will look fondly back on these chaotic, frustratingly repetitive days and actually miss them. I will write a similar post, perhaps after visiting a new young mother, or perhaps even when being with my own grown children and their small babies.

I think of this possible future and my throat hitches, a lump already forming in my overly sentimental chest.

Someday, someday soon, my babies will be big and grown and independent, with loves and lives of their own. And while of course, every parent aspires to raise good, contributing people full of vitality and love, people who are separate and yet connected, the idea is bittersweet to me. (However tempting a clean, tidy house with nothing but time ahead of me sounds.)

Isn’t that the irony of life? Just when you get what you think you want, you would give it all back just to have a moment of the good old days.

It is the curse and blessing of temporal beings, locked unidirectionally in the forward flow of time.

Carpe that diem, friends. It will be tomorrow before you know it.