The Geography of My Day
When the road demands change.
Twenty-six years ago, I made a choice, and each ensuing moment from that day forward was affected in some way by this initial decision. Deciding to have a kid changed my life, but it was the desire to stay at home and raise her full-time that created the geography of my days. What was supposed to be a temporary and transitory act instead molded my world in ways that still affect my day-to-day life, or at least they did until recently. The world I’ve created, as a stay-at-home mom (to first a kid, and then also a golden retriever), writer, community organizer, and now coach, was created in the pockets of time around others’ needs. Even though I had no “official” deadlines, one of my kid’s first sentences was “Hurry Dylan, hurry,” because I was always rushing us to get somewhere. My attention was like a tumbleweed, blown down a carnival midway, veering from the booth selling elephant ears and deep-fried Oreos to the joint where you shoot a water pistol to make tin rabbits race, disjointed and chaotic. While I was putting out fires, I was also building pyres, all in the name of child raising. It was playdates and carpools. Room parenting and snack duty. Yes, I had freedom, but the structure of my days was a sculpture, sometimes rock solid, but often built with duct tape and pool noodles. And when the kid got older and left home, there was the dog needing walks (six a day in DC!), and errands. What is it about modern life and never-ending errands: Safeway, Trader Joes, Party City, Home Goods, the doctor, the dentist, the vet?! My days are choppy and the time for work gets fit into the nooks and crannies built around twenty-six years of habit that were originally built from needs. A parent’s brain must work in short bursts. The kid needs a nap, the laundry needs to go into the dryer, the dog just barfed and there’s nothing in the fridge. For too long, I have had a real inability to have a long runway for my thoughts to take off, but finally I’m in a place, since the kid got launched and the dog died, to realize that the geography of my days that worked well for so many years is insufficient.
Maya Angelou once wrote that “the need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” I think of my mind as a collection of my days, a monoculture of trees that were planted 25 years ago, like the rubber tree plantations in the Amazon. What are we supposed to do when it’s time for a change? When things that worked so well for so long, no longer do? Do we divorce the spouse? Sell the house? Become a vagabond? Go back to school? Join the circus? What if none of that feels right? Then what? As Americans, we’re told being happy is our birthright. Even worse, we’re chastised as complete failures as parents if our kid(s) aren’t happy. Yet, happy feels so elusive and slippery, like an eel in a bubble bath. We have it, and then we don’t. Or we have it, but we don’t recognize it. And how can we recognize it with so much noise? I’m not talking about the soundtrack of our world, which can be loud, but the feeling like everyone else is vying for our attention. It’s a raucous world, even off social media, and there are so many contrasting pulls and pushes on our attention that finding the grounding center can be elusive.
So that bulldozer, that road… Let’s follow it, explore it, and see where it goes. While I could stay on my rubber plantation just fine till the end of my life, the desire for change is strong. Maybe I’ll end up in a metaphorical grassland or a rocky coastline. See, the geography of my days needs to change. The question is what am I willing to do to change it?
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