Thursday, December 31, 2015

A look back at 2015

I am really not ready to make goals for 2016.  I just don't know what I want, or what I could reasonably hope for!  So the place to start is to look back, to see how the past year went.  Perhaps when I go over it, it'll be easy to see where I want to go next.

It was kind of a rough year.  Better than 2014, though!  Miriam was four months when the year started, which means she was through with the difficult newborn stage (when, if you remember, she wouldn't go down for a nap at all, ever) and got easier throughout the year.  Once she did regularly go down for naps, I was able to focus more on the boys and stop them from the constant biting-each-other thing.  I got a car and we've actually started going places for fun, which is nice.  We've been doing fine for money all year, which is something I hope I never forget to feel grateful for.

But three kids is hard, you know?  It's really hard to get a baby to sleep if there are big kids making noise.  It's hard to take care of a sick child when you also have two rowdy well children.  It's hard to wake up at 3 a.m. with one and 5 a.m. with another.  It's hard for us parents to get time with each other when somebody always seems to need something.  One more child means more mess, more stress, more food to buy and cook, more anxiety when we go out that I'll lose one, more noise.  I kind of thought the work would decline per kid -- and it does, to some extent.  Three kids is not three times as much work as one -- but it isn't the same amount of work as one, either.

And I'm not bouncing back as fast as I thought I would, or as fast as I did with the boys.  When Marko was four weeks old I got up off the couch, went into the kitchen, and started bustling around with more energy than I'd had in the past year.  I felt like myself, 100% capacity.  I hit that point with Michael at about six months.  With Miriam ... I still don't feel like that.  Some days are good, I feel energetic and happy and focused and motivated.  (Say, if I've had a really great night's sleep.)  Other days I just sort of drag myself around and the noise and stress really gets to me.  My body just won't crank out a normal level of energy and accomplishment on five hours' sleep anymore.

I'm managing the stuff that has to get done pretty well now.  I mean, laundry is still kind of a bust, but I do dishes every day, make food, do some general tidying.  But the energy that used to make me want to organize the bookshelf or clean under the bed or start a knitting project?  It's gone.  I still miser my energy the way I do when I'm pregnant -- "better do dishes instead of cleaning the bathroom, because I know if I do one, I'll be too tired to do the other."  And as for fun stuff I used to like, like gardening, writing, spinning?  I can barely even think about them!  I'll go on a kick for a couple of days where I feel better and I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I'll jot down a bunch of ideas for a book or cast on a hat ... and then Miriam cuts another tooth and it all lies stagnant for another month.

It's demoralizing.  Sometimes I'm tempted to universalize it -- saying something like, "See, motherhood drains the life out of women; it is incredibly unfair that we are expected to do this over and over for years, when it saps our energy and dreams right out of us."  But of course I know not everyone feels this way!  Some people remain spunky after a dozen kids.  Still, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that most people I know seem to land in this boat after a few kids.  They always tell me it gets easier, but on pressing, I've had several moms of many admit, "It gets easier because you give up on the idea of ever doing anything for yourself again and you just accept how tired you are and move on."  It's not super encouraging.

However, it is slowly getting better.  I realized today that 2015 is the first calendar year since 2008 that I haven't been pregnant for any part of it.  If I can just keep plugging away, there will (hopefully) be a day when I can sleep through the night again.  When I can put a cartoon on for the kids and take a nap because all of them are old enough to be briefly unsupervised.  When I can count on some time to work on my own projects every day, and the energy to do it.  I'm dreaming of a day when thinking about my garden or my next novel doesn't make me overwhelmed and exhausted, but excited and ready to start.  It'll happen.

In some sense, it was a bad year, because this was the year I lost whatever was left of my faith.  But even that has a bright side, because I have finally let go the immense pressure of trying to force myself to believe something that didn't seem right.  I realized that the only way to do good is to seek out the truth, even if it's not the truth you wanted to hear.  And it's kind of reassuring to think that, well, if it's not true, then I'm not bad for having doubts, and God isn't ignoring me for not being good enough while paying attention to other people.  Maybe we're all in this same boat of wanting God, but not having a clear way to know if God wants us.

Other than that, my opinions haven't really changed much this year.  The nice thing about being a libertarian is that it leaves room for error -- you're already staying out of other people's business (like gay marriage or birth control) and so you don't have to change what you're doing if you change your mind.  In my personal life, my morality hasn't changed because I see the code I've followed all this time as a very good way to live. 

My word for 2015 was "act."  Silly me, I imagined I would have energy this year and would be doing more than I have.  But pushing myself to try anyway was probably a good thing.  I'm not ready to choose a word yet for 2016.  I guess I'm kind of scared it will be another year where I expect things to get better faster than they do.  What if I resolve to write a book and it just isn't possible?  What if my garden goes all to weeds and I quit doing sit-ups and watch too much TV?  Hard to plan when you don't know where your life will take you.

Looking back, I accomplished very little in 2015.  But I was present.  I took care of my relationships.  Every one of my kids seems securely attached -- they are happy most of the time, and I am exchanging hugs and kisses with them all day long.  They tell me what's on their minds and they smile when they catch my eye.  And John and I are getting along great too -- through all the stress and tiredness, we've been present with each other.  It's been good.

For all I didn't do, I'm proud of how I managed in 2015.  And I have a good feeling about 2016.  If I do nothing else, I will keep loving my kids, and that's not nothing.

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