Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some Things That Make Life So Much Better These Days

Boy, I am feeling good these days.

Could you tell?  I don't blog as much when things are really good, or really bad.  It's hard to find the words, or too painful to write them down.

But not now.  Things are humming at work, E is in a good place, the girls are doing their thing in the loveliest of ways.  It's nice to be in a place where things feel good.  It's not that everyday is easy, or even pleasant.  That day a few weeks back where salary adjustments came out and there was some gendered hanky-panky PLUS we found out our after-school childcare situation was going to be twice as expensive as we had planned on and therefore we were going to have to pull out of it are just two examples that come to mind.

But things have definitely shifted in some profound ways, and I'm trying to put my finger on why.  Here are my guesses:

1.  We hit some sort of magic age-shift with the girls.  You try not to hurry your kids along with the growing-up process because everyone tells you to "treasure these moments" and all that stuff.  But I personally think those people are baby fanatics, and it's good to acknowledge that not all of us are baby fanatics.  I mean, I loved my babies.  I loved my toddlers.  I miss their fat little hands and their warm, sleepy breath on my necks.  But I don't miss the constant pull on my attention, my health, and my intellect that they had as super-young kids.  I love that we can go to parties and the kids will go off and play with their friends and have a good time and I can do some talking to grown-ups.  I love that I can have a conversation with them that leaves me interested and laughing rather than bored to death.  I love that we can listen to pop music together without somebody melting down from sensory overload.  They are much easier to take care of and much more fun to be around.  And because I'm not so exhausted and depleted, I am more interested and active in their lives, rather than constantly trying to escape just so I can breathe.

2.  I now work on Thursday nights instead of Wednesday nights.  It sounds silly, but what a huge difference this has made!  Wednesday meetings can start in the morning and I don't have to hyperventilate at the thought of working a fourteen-hour day, followed by two more days left in the work week.  I can stay home and read and prep for class Thursday morning, or go for a long run, have my first class at 12:30, and then teach until 9 without feeling like I might die.  And I don't have to teach on Fridays so I can write or have meetings and not be responsible for shaping young minds when I'm tired out.

3.  I'm setting more of my own agenda at work.  Without going into too many details, let's just say I'm working on a bunch of new projects that I thought up or initiated or thought carefully about before committing to.  This reflects a new way of living in workworld for me.  It's scary and totally fulfilling.  I'm busy but it's a great busy, and that oogy feeling I used to have of feeling obligated to do something just because someone else thinks I should do it has really faded.  I still do stuff I'm asked to do, but because it's not the primary locus of my work, I can do it with good feelings and not bad.

4.  Running.  I'm running the Denver half-marathon on Sunday, and our 200-mile Kentucky relay is in October.  I don't run everyday, but I'm running pretty long distances, and while I hate that first mile every time I do it, I love the effects running is having.  I'm less stressed, I sleep well, I have energy, and there is something empowering about doing something physically challenging every other day and not quitting.  I feel physically fit and sometimes even powerful when I run.  There's also the commitment training requires to take some time for yourself everyday to do the run.  You commit to this even if you're facing a shitty, long day at work, or if it's raining, or 90 degrees outside, or if your tummy hurts.  This is a useful spiritual and physical thing to do, and reminds you that the demands of work need not reign supreme.  A running magazine I looked at recently said there is something valuable to be gained from forcing ourselves to be uncomfortable when most of our lives we work really hard to keep ourselves fed, temperature-controlled, well-rested, and pain-free.  I think this is a privileged perspective, but there's also some truth to it.

5.  Sleeping.  That said, it is so awesome to get to regularly sleep through the night.  I can't even tell you.

6.  Locking the door periodically.  It's not easy to find couple time when your kids are little.  Your boobs are leaking milk, or you're exhausted, or you smell bad, or the other person smells bad, or you've just had a massive fight over who had to put the kids down last while the other person gets to watch The Daily Show.  But then your kids get old enough to want to watch cartoons without you on Saturday morning or to sleep through the night, and you discover the lock on your bedroom door.  There's finally enough of you left over to want to share with someone else.  Having your bathroom redone to include a walk-in shower also doesn't hurt.  Hubba hubba.

7.  I take weekends off.  I probably shouldn't even write this.  People will judge.  But I work a really solid 8 hours a day four days a week, and a 12-hour day one day a week, and I'm much healthier and productive when I have a real weekend.  I know not everyone can do this.  I know people work really hard for what they have and they sacrifice a lot.  I did that for a lot of years.  And now I don't, and it's an important part of my happiness.  I'll keep it that way as long as I can, until I can't.

8.  The year of connection.  I remember my first year on the tenure track a tenured faculty member told me she had planned things this way:  her first year on the tenure track would be the year of getting publications started, her second year would be the year of getting things in print, her third year would be the year of the grant, and so on.  I was pretty impressed and terrified by this at the time.  But now I think she probably should have had a "year of being a better friend and colleague" in there, too.  Not that she isn't.  What I mean is that I need to have a year of being a better friend and colleague.  In fact, every year should be that year.  So I'm really making that effort, and am constantly reminded how rich my life is in friendship and love.

I think that's it!  There's also Boden's fall line of corduroy dresses and the weather cooling off enough to wear sweaters and boots and the amazing stack of books I'm parallel reading on my bookstand and facebook.  These are all fun.  And there's a lot of pain in the world, too.  I know that full well.

I'm just saying things are good.  That's all.


  1. Love all of this post.

    I too love my babies, but as the girls have gotten a bit older, I've realized how much I love the interactions with them.

    You've almost inspired me to start running again.

    I have a new boss at work. The change has been awesome and long awaited.

    And yes, those corduroy dresses at Boden are fantastic, aren't they?

  2. I think a huge part of this post is simply saying that things are good without feeling guilty. You slipped it in at the end "alot of pain in the world too" but of course there is...the task, for me, is not to get mired in it or feel like I have to DO SOMETHING about it all the time. Like I have that kind of power anyway. Often this creates a striking imbalance in many of my friendships; my instinctual constancy is not a shared trait. That can leave me feeling very alone. But when I decide that my energy is better used finding ways to be constantly there for *myself*, I become less resentful and the happy arrives saying" what took you so long?" It sounds like you've made some amazing changes in your life and routine that are really seeing unexpected dividends. That's fabulous, and I'm genuinely happy for you! -msh