Monday, February 2, 2009

By no means the meaning of this post, but spoiler alert for 'Marley & Me'

Every once in awhile, I feel a responsibility to put a disclaimer on my blog. And after a few exchanges I've had with people lately, I have that creeping sense it's time again.

Disclaimer: My life is not perfect.

It was an innocent side note in a quick instant message session with a new friend from the Netherlands. She introduced herself as a longtime reader, and I really enjoyed getting to know her -- especially when she struggled to find a word in English and came up with it before I could.

As we discussed birthdays and life goals, she seemed genuinely surprised that I'm as settled as I am at 30. For her at 23, finding a job, getting married, buying a house and raising a family probably seem like impossible destinations -- just like they did for me at that age. Those things were something down the road perhaps, but nothing tangible.

I wrote back that even though it appears I couldn't want for anything else, I'm constantly thinking about what might change. As someone who thrives on new experiences, I'm always considering what corner I might turn next. Whether it's moving across town, to another state, finding another job or even some unforeseen opportunity, I don't feel completely settled, despite having a mortgage and constantly deepening roots in my community.

She wrote back that, to an outsider, it seems I have the perfect life.

The statement stuck with me. I know I don't have much to complain about. I have an amazing support network of family and friends. I have a full-time job in a time of global economic crisis. I have a wonderful home full of history and character that I've been able to make my own. I have a husband who loves and cares about me deeply. We have a beautifully vivacious and healthy daughter who brings more joy to our lives than we ever could've imagined. And an amazingly loving dog who is just as neurotic as we are.

But the combination of diamond rings, a dog, a chainlink fence, two cars, steady paychecks and tiny feet isn't always a winning one. There are times that keeping up with all of the responsibilities that comes with those things make you feel like you're drowning.

Sometimes I get the sense that the free-thinking, spontaneous, well-rested individual I used to be gets lost. I know she's in there somewhere, but it's hidden underneath the woman who is worried about making sure the bills get paid on time, the fridge isn't empty, the dog's water bowl is filled, the oil gets changed, everyone has clean clothes and there's backup toilet paper, deodorant and toothpaste in the bathroom linen closet.

After a few days of arguing, Jerry and I finally waived a white flag and asked if his mother could watch Allison for a few hours so we could go see a movie. I think we both needed the mental break and to be someplace other than inside our house, our cars or our offices. On the east coast, winter can be absolutely stifling.

We committed to a matinee in order to stick to Allison's bedtime schedule, so we were locked out of most of our top movie choices. All of the major Oscar contenders were only showing at night. But without too much arm twisting, I was able to convince Jerry to see "Marley & Me." He knew I had loved the book, and because it was about a dog, he agreed.

It was almost like watching our lives on a big screen. There were so many moments we related to. Jerry turned to me repeatedly to say how thankful he is that Toby is small because if you add a hundred pounds, he becomes the main character. Even still, we went through the overnight howling, shredding everything in sight, the leg humping, ripping up the kitchen floor, eating drywall and jumping out of a moving vehicle. And maybe not poop disasters from too many mangoes, but certainly pears.

Even more than that, we related to the chaotic life of working for media outlets, a miscarriage, eventually having a healthy baby and the chaos that follows. Which is why I was somewhat relieved to watch a scene where they become so frazzled trying to balance all of their responsibilities that they take it out on each other. It's life. It's emotional. It's hard sometimes.

Even if people tell you how hard it's going to be, you'll never fully comprehend it until you're ankle deep in dirty dishes, kid's toys, job deadlines, a stack of bills, laundry and dying plants. All while you're trying your hardest to foster the relationships with the people experiencing the chaos with you.

So when the 16-year-old girl working the concession counter at Crazy Action Zone looks at my daughter with total adoration, sighs and says how much she wants a baby, I want to take both of my hands, grab her by the shoulders and shake her forcibly.

Yes, Alli is nothing short of adorable in pigtails and a cute outfit. And she's a lot of fun when she's well-rested and fed and getting a lot of attention from her parents. But that doesn't replace years of partying with friends. Getting a college education. Learning from mistakes like not to let petty things get in the way of friendships. Getting your heart trampled on so you realize how good you have it when someone really loves you for who you are. Or even being able to decide to go to a movie and walking out the door without having to pack a diaper bag and arrange for a sitter.

I don't always write about the tough times because that's not what I want to remember years from now. I want to chronicle the journey of my days, so sometimes it's inevitable, but for the most part, I try to focus on the positive. Yes, there's laundry to be done, but sometimes playing in the snow is more important. And it's those little things that help remind me that even though the long winter days can seem like it's an endless bled of the same, there is some variety in there that makes the possibilities of tomorrow feel a little brighter.

And when I'm at my worst, feeling like I'm overworked, misunderstood and underappreciated, I can come here late at night after work when everyone is in bed, scroll through my archives and know how good I've got it.

Then I pass out kisses to my three sleeping beauties and it makes me feel more complete than I could ever possibly describe.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your blog post today! In many ways I feel the same, but never would have been able to put it to words the way you have! Thank you!

Janice said...

Thank you, that's a wonderful post. that's what my mother drilled into my head when i was younger. Get everything out of the way first. Party. Travel. Go to college. Fall in love. I'm 20 and I still have no desire for a kid or a mortgage...just an apartment with the boyfriend and a publishing internship this summer in New York City. If I can get my hands on it. :)

Alexandria said...

I feel the same way. I try not to record negative things going on in my personal journals, because when I go back and read them twenty years from now I don't want to think about that terrible haircut or that lost friendship. I want to think about all of the wonderful things in my life.

Great post today! Thanks for your powerful words.

Rachel said...

That was beautiful Kelly. I felt the same way watching Marley and Me, as I, like you, juggle all these things. I heard a quote last week that hit me hard "These are the best days of our lives and we don't even realize it." Sometimes we just need to let the laundry grow and enjoy the amazing things around us :) Or hire a cleaning lady!

the_plainsman said...

I like these introspective posts, Kelly, for the very reason you hint at, providing balance. But at risk of disagreement, might expand your disclamer by dropping the "My." Life is not perfect. I really don't think anyone really ever feels settled, even if they may be seen to be, by others.

And that is precisely the reason why we perservere, try so hard desipte odds that for some of us seem insurmountable. And why our trials allow us to appreciate even more, the precious things around us, and how impermanent some of them might be. And appreciate the possibility and experiences of what may await us in the future.

And that goes for some of us singles, too, and we have no one to watch our backs, either, like you have Jerry, or even to share that movie when we really need it!

Perfect, Kelly? Nah! But what you have gained is much more precious. Wisdom.

Sarah Jo said...

I remember sitting in Marley and Me and thinking about how familiar it really was to me. And I know that is because I have read so much about your life and times on line over the last 4 or 5 years. Gosh, has it really been that long? Anyways, sometimes you just have to go play in the snow. That is a very important message. I will share that with Nic. :)

p.s. yes, from an outsider, your life seems absolutely amazing. but i also realize that is because i have been able to see you go through life's ups, and downs and you have been a surviver always with a smile. you are a truly wonderful role model.

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite poem, and my words to live by. Your post reminded me of it.

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, Lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek-peek-a-boo).
The shopping is not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there is a hullabaloo.
But I'm playing "Kanga" and this is my "Roo."
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

Ray said...

Beautiful blog entry. Thank you for writing it. I can relate to the 23 year old (I'm twenty one----turning twenty-two in April)who thinks that those destinations that you've listed above are, impossible as well. Nonetheless, I love your honesty about your life. It's nice to see. Nice to see you write about your life in a positive light, but it's also nice to read about normal everyday struggles as well. Internally and not so internally.

Take, care. =o)

Anonymous said...

wow, imagine my surprise when I started reading this post realising you were talking about me...!
I meant it when I said that everything is always relative. I study psychology and theres a theory that says that everybody has an average point of happiness and sometimes it might fluctuate but we always return to baseline. I really believe this theory. No matter what difficult things we encounter, we will always overcome them. At the same time, what we might consider as perfect will never be perfect because there are always up and downs, to everything.

I had a good time talking to you as well, I hope we can do it again some day :)

Amanda said...

Loved your post. Seems no matter where we are in life there is always something more. Hey, I don't want to get to the point where there isn't!

Amanda said...

Loved your post. Seems no matter where we are in life there is always something more. Hey, I don't want to get to the point where there isn't!