Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Away.

 
Two days out of town.
 
 
A drive through downtown Los Angeles.  A favorite restaurant. Sneaking out of the hotel room and smuggling in gelato and wine without disturbing a sleeping baby.
 
 
A morning on the beach.  Watching my daughter touch the sand and waves for the first time. 
 
 
 
Two days without bills, dishes, shower-scrubbing, baby food-making, diaper stuffing, car-breaking-down drama, getting-to-work-on-time angst, and worries worries worries.  Two days of freedom.
 
 
 And tiny adventures.
 
 
Two days. It wasn't much, but it was all we could manage. And it was enough.  We have allowed ourselves to be bogged down by the menial tasks, the lack of money, the constant striving to be more.  We managed to shake that off for a moment and just be us.  Strange, quiet, peaceful, quriky, energized, smiling, hand-holding, occasionally goofy us. An "us" that we seemed to have misplaced lately.  But we were found.
 
 
All we needed was a little time away.

 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ruminations on race


We walked to the store this evening, me carrying the reusable bags and my husband carrying the baby.  I had a chance to really look at them both, compare their profiles as they stared ahead at the trees and traffic and dog-walkers.  I've gone on about how similar their personalities are, but this was the first time I noticed how much they look alike as well.  She inherited his prominent upper lip and long head (granted, it's hidden under her mass of hair).  I see the beginnings of his well-defined cheekbones and narrow chin.

I still think she has my eyes.

Almost 10 months later and we still marvel at this little creature, how she's a perfect blend of the two of us, how we had absolutely no idea how she would look before she was born.  Every parent wonders who their baby will take after, how their features will blend to create a unique, yet similar, little person. Being from such different ethnic backgrounds, and looking as different from each other as we do, the spectrum was vast - Amaliya could have come out with very dark skin, very light skin, or anything in between.  Her facial features, as she grows, may gravitate more towards Caucasian or African, or both, or neither. Her hair! Her hair, with its infinite possibilities, deserves a post of its own.
 
I look at her, and I see beauty.  I see something special.  She is an amalgamation, not only of races, but of cultures.   An American by birth, her perspective will never be limited by nationality. Her African father, a man who is deeply connected to his home is ever seeking to deepen his understanding of his own culture, will teach her to see beyond the constructs of the society she is raised in.  We want her to be a part of each of our families, intimately understand the individual threads of her cultural background, and yet not be bound by either.  She was born out of the immense, boundless, mundane, worldly love shared between her father and I - a love that thrives despite numerous cultural differences.  She will always be evidence of the separation, yet proof of the connection.  She is the river, and the bridge.
 
I can't help but wonder, though, how the rest of the world is going to see her. Will they see beauty, or strangeness?  Will people see her as a symbol of how cultural divides can be conquered, how love transcends social boundaries.... or will some people look at her, and think she shouldn't exist at all?  That her father is a sell-out, her mother a love-starved man-thief - accusations that have been thrown at us on a regular basis since we first got together?  That is a lot of baggage for a little girl to carry.
 
When the other kids at school ask her innocently, as kids are prone to do, whether she is "black" or "white," how is she going to respond?  It is not fair that she will be confronted with deep questions about her identity at such a young age, but there it is.  This is the world we live in.
 
I know we have to help her navigate these issues.  I just hope we at least have a couple years to figure out how.
 
 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On taking responsibility for my happiness,

Tea farm in Limuru, Kenya
I've been cranky lately.  Moody.  Stressed.  Mostly overwhelmed.  And I'm tired of it - life is too short and too wonderous to wallow in the negative. 
 
I've always been the kind of person who loves responsibility.  I take pride in being loyal and reliable, in keeping mine and everyone else's lives in order.  I come home from work and generally don't sit down until dinner is made, dishes are done, workout and shower are complete... and when I do sit down I pay bills, work on assignments for grad school, or blog (hi!).  I am not a person who enjoys relaxation on a daily basis.  Sitting on the couch and mindlessly watching TV stresses me out and makes me unhappy.

With a baby in the mix now, I find my energy levels are completely off the charts.  I'm doing what I've always done, but now I have the added responsibility of feeding her, the bedtime routine, prepping her food and supplies for daycare... then getting up super early to get her dressed and ready for the day (and yes, my husband is willing to assist with all these things... but what can I say?  Efficiency is my forte.  I do these things because I do them well).
 
Most of the time I get everything done, still have some time to devote to my personal interests, and end the day feeling on top of it all.... but sometimes, I get burnt out.  It's been happening more often lately; I've been constantly sick since Amaliya started daycare, and trying to go go go 16 hours a day when I really just need to lay on the couch is breaking me down.  I feel like every day is spent preparing for the next day, and I never get a second to sit down and breathe.
 
I know I need a reset, to refresh my mind and spirit.  Nobody is going to step in, force me to sit down, take away my responsibilities.  Nobody is going to go to work for me, finish my classes for me.  I don't expect the world to cut me any slack, and I don't really need it anyway - I've got this.  I just need to figure how to pause from day-to-day and smell the proverbial roses.  I need to take responsibility for my own happiness, for my own benefit and for my family, because they deserve the best of me all the time.  I've figured out a few things that work for me:

1.  Find inspiration.  TED talks on YouTube, really motivating music, poetry, people watching at the coffee shop.... all these things really give me energy and get my creative and intellectual juices flowing.  It's easy to get in a rut and simply survive day-to-day when there's so much on your plate.  Sometimes I feel like a pack mule, like I only exist to work.  When I feel inspired, I'm reminded that I have more to offer the world than wage labor.

2. Sweat.  I go for a run, I take a class, even just a long walk helps me to turn my head around.  Endorphins are my friend.  A good workout helps me stop dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, and enables me to just be in my body, fully present in the moment.

3. Ignore the messes. This is a hard one.  I like a clean house.  I can't STAND waking up to dishes in the sink.  I scoffed at everyone who told me that my place would always be a mess after having a baby.  And it's true, it IS possible to have a very clean house and a baby simultaneously, even while working - the cost is your sanity.  I've realized that to be happy, sometimes I have to let go and embrace the chaos.  Sometimes, an evening on the couch is more important than filing, dusting, or scrubbing the shower.

4. Take a sanity day.  I took one of these today!  If you're lucky enough to have paid time off of work, well, use it people!  And use it in a way that's going to make you feel fantastic.  For me, that means dropping the baby at daycare, making an enormous list of projects that I want to tackle, and knocking them out.  For you, that might mean a morning with a good book and an afternoon pedicure.  If you don't work, or can't take time off, try and carve out a couple hours here and there to focus on you, and doing something that fortifies your soul.  No guilt allowed - a happy you makes a better world.

5.  Get help.  Now, asking for help is definitely not something I'm good at, but I am working on it.  Every time I start feeling resentful about my workload, I consciously pause and think, "did I ask for help?"  I never do, I just expect my husband to be a mind-reader, sense when I'm feeling frazzled, and do exactly what I need him to.  That isn't realistic.  I have to ask him for his help.  And you know what?  He has never once refused or even complained.  He is more than willing to assist with anything if I ask nicely instead of just expecting him to share my priorities.  Bottling things up, working myself to exhaustion, then unleashing all my frustrations on him solves nothing and just makes both of us feel crappy.

Life really is too short to be unhappy.

Did I miss anything?  What do you do when you need a mental reset?