Now We Are Six

Dear Connor,

Last night after dinner we put together the loot bags for your birthday party. They’re Star Wars themed, like your invitations, and your dad had selected a bunch of things along that theme that six-year-olds might like. As we put them together, you helped sometimes, and ran around sometimes, playing with the various extra bits, pretending you had a light sabre, and it struck me once again, in that moment, that you are six. You know things about Star Wars and light sabres and you are six.

Star Wars birthday invitations

For the last couple of months as we led up to your sixth birthday, my chest has been tight thinking about it. I don’t know why. There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about turning six; at least not that I can think of. You might notice that this year, unlike other years, I have titled this letter, “Now WE are six.” For some reason this birthday, unlike other years, feels more like it’s about us and not just about you.

I have thought about this a lot, trying to figure out why. The closest I can come is that it has something to do with the stage Ethan has reached. At 18 months (and then 19, and then 20) it became clearer and clearer to me how different he is from how you were at that age. And in so realizing, it became clearer and clearer just how hard those first few years of parenthood were when you were a baby.

boy in skull shirt with spiked hair

My darling boy, I love you so much, but a lot of things about being your mom in those first few years just sucked. I look back on those things now and I wonder how we got through it. Sometimes I think maybe I didn’t actually get through it intact, but maybe this is just how things are and were meant to be. Maybe some of these things would have come about anyway.

You are an entirely different person now. Well, maybe not entirely. You are still full of life and energy, but you have evolved into a person who has two speeds: high speed and off. You are either moving through life at mach speed or completely still, focused on Lego, or a movie, or fast asleep. For the last couple of mornings I’ve had to come and wake you up so you could be at school on time, something I don’t actually recall ever having to do in the last six years. You were curled up in your sleeping bag on your camping cot (which you’ve insisted on sleeping in since returning from camping last weekend) and you didn’t even move when Ethan and I came into the room. And then I left the room for a moment to tell your dad that you were still totally passed out—because it really was that remarkable—and Ethan jiggled you enough to wake you up and the next thing I knew you were out of bed. You went from completely OFF to completely ON.

Hoo doos in Drumheller

Recently, I have become better at catching you in, or encouraging you into, quieter moments. I have worked on regulating my own settings so that your high-speed setting doesn’t inevitably push me straight into overdrive. Our relationship is better now than it was. Better now, I think, than ever. I can see more clearly what you need, and you can express your needs more clearly to me, and we aren’t always jockeying to each have our own needs met RIGHT NOW.

I have struggled recently with the things your birth brought into my life - things I didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. But I struggle less with you, and as a result you struggle less with me. We have found a balance, like the point of a spinning top that stays in control, en pointe, and fully supported by the forces around it. It took us a few years of working to build the strength and structure to appear to dance more lightly, but we got here. And as I look in the mirror I see us dancing a choreographed dance that we perform mostly in unison, spending less time treading on each other’s toes.

silhouette in front of water wall

I like this dance, my darling boy.

Now we are partners.

Now we are six.

I will love you always and forever,

Mama xx

In Transit

Right now I’m sitting in the observation deck at the Minneapolis airport, a peaceful room with only classical music as the backdrop for the view of the runways. I look out at the planes sitting at the gates, seemingly quiet with no hint as to the activity happening inside; those planes are all going somewhere, though I can’t tell where just by looking.

It feels like a metaphor for me and my own journey.

view from observation deck at MSP airport
I’ve felt a little lost lately, and it feels odd. I don’t know what to say about it. When I first started putting words to my journey three years ago I could see the path I was on, like a moving sidewalk in front of me. Whether I walked or not I was going somewhere, and I had some idea of where. I just had to wait for that moving sidewalk to spit me out the other side. And then it did and I thought, Oh. I’m here. 

“Here” turned out to be a different city. “Here” turned out to be a new job and a new baby and a new appreciation for the time during which the moving sidewalk went a little nuts, forcing me to hold on tightly to the handrail lest I get chewed up en route. And so it was, for a time – at peace, happy, accepting.

After a while, though, things started to feel a little off. I didn’t know why at first, and then I did.

And then I stopped writing because I don’t know what to make of it.

The question I’m wrestling with is, “Really?” I had a baby and got sick and didn’t get help soon enough and now I have to struggle with depression for the rest of my life? Really?!

Inside, I’m railing against this. I’m angry and frustrated and, sometimes, feeling defeated. I did all that work and learned all those lessons and got brave and shared my story to help others and I still have to deal with this shit?

Apparently, yes. Really.

I’m in this airport on a three-hour layover on my way to DC for a conference hosted by a company I know well. I used to fairly regularly fly to the US to speak at conferences hosted by this same company, and as I sit in this quiet room I look around for the me who used to do this, but she’s not here. Just this new me and some classical music.

I’ve often wondered lately if this is it. The last few months with the ups and downs of what I now know is an ongoing depression journey have felt a bit like a layover – interminable and frustrating, watching as everyone else takes off while I’m stuck looking out the window. I’ll depart eventually, but whether I go onwards or backwards I don’t yet know. I’m still in transit.

Playing with Tobo Tracks (Giveaway)

I’m not a huge fan of playing with cars, but I do love me some tracks. We played with Brio all the time as kids, and when Connor started getting into it my siblings and I were in there just as much as he was.

Connor, of course, has gravitated to Lego, though the Brio still occasionally makes an appearance, especially now that Ethan has discovered it. I think he might be my train buddy.

We’ve got another set of tracks he likes as well – a Tobo Track.

tobo-track3

I won this set on my friend Samantha’s blog just before Christmas and there are so many things about it I think are really cool:

  • Made from wood; designed in Canada and made in the US.
  • Comes with a small wooden car but designed to be used with Matchbox cars, Brio trains, and so on.
  • Any edge connects to any other edge, but you can use the numbers to practice matching, addition, or any other educational game you can think of.
  • Tracks can be put together in all kinds of configurations.

Give me some tracks to build and play on and I can play cars quite happily. Especially if I get to play with my little buddy while he makes a “vroom, vroom” sound.

tobo-track2

The other thing I really like about this toy is that the makers actively solicit feedback. I got an email from Tomas, Tobo Toys founder and designer, to let me know when to expect it, and then he followed up after I received it to ask what my kids think. He honestly cares what people think and wants to know how to make this toy even better. I like the toy, but ultimately it was his approach to customers that made me want to share this with you.

tobo-track1

So who wants to give it a go? I’ve got one Tobo Track set to give away. (And if you want to buy a Tobo Track, they’re on sale until March 31.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Update: If you want a Tobo Track of your own, Tobo Toys is offering a 15% discount for readers of this blog using the code FARR15TOBO.

 

A Window Into Apathy

“I found myself losing interest in almost everything. I didn’t want to do any of the things I had previously wanted to do, and I didn’t know why. The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment. Everything there was to do seemed like too much work. I would come home and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends I would think, “What a lot of people that is to have to call back.” Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross.”

dark clouds over hay fields

The TED talk by Andrew Solomon about depression that’s quoted above has been open in the browser on my phone for ages. Weeks. Months, maybe. I wanted to watch it but hadn’t yet, so it stayed hidden away, only occasionally glimpsed when I clicked on another link and saw the window whiz by as I opened a new one.

And then last night I was putting Connor to bed, and as he wiggled and settled and drifted toward sleep I was scrolling through the open windows on my phone trying to clear them out. (Because there are so many things sitting on my chest as obligations, and open windows on the browser on my phone felt like yet another series of things I really should get back to, which is ridiculous, so I decided it was time for those windows to go away.) I scrolled through each window one last time and thought, no, I’m not going to make those quinoa cakes and I really don’t care what 29 awesome things I don’t know about Google and I’m sure those stock photos that don’t suck are great but I don’t really need more stock photo sources and I closed each window in turn.

And then I got to the window for this TED talk.

lightning-strike

You know how sometimes something ends up in front of your face and then later you look back and wonder at the timing? It gets pushed in front of you through some kind of cyber-magic and you finally pay attention to it and suddenly all sorts of things make sense. That’s what happened with that TED talk. I somehow—not deliberately—ended up on the transcript page and as Connor wiggled and settled and drifted to sleep I started reading.

In January I wrote about how I was missing inspiration and some of you said, “That’s okay” and “Some periods of your life are just like that” and “A different path is not a bad thing,” and I thought no. And I even said it—I said This is not how I wish to live—but what I didn’t say at the time was Something feels wrong. Something is wrong. I just let it float around in the back of my awareness and I thought about words like apathy and how I don’t remember ever feeling so strongly that I just don’t give a shit and for more than three months now I’ve wondered what it’s all about.

But last night a window appeared in front of me and I didn’t close it. Instead of closing that window I opened it, and now I can actually see through to the other side. I’m not sure what’s over on this side—because I do feel like I’m on the right side now—and I don’t know exactly what to do about it, but at least now it has a label. At least now I’m no longer confused about what’s happening. I went from thinking I’m slipping and not really understanding why because it felt different than in the past to knowing that, in fact, I slipped.

Now, as well, I know that apathy is a symptom of depression. And as wrong as it feels, the knowing of it feels much more right.

Waiting for Perfection

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I haven’t been writing a lot lately. Largely because of time—I’ll put 75% of the blame there—but also because the topics swirl around in my head and I wait for them to position themselves just so before committing to putting words to my thoughts. I only want to write if it’s meaningful. I only want to write if I get it right.

atwood-on-writing-perfection

There’s no such thing as perfection. I know that. And there’s especially no such thing as perfection in writing. Words are living, breathing things and a piece of writing is never truly done. It’s just finished, and the writer has to release those words to the world and let them continue to live on through readers. As you peruse the words and unravel their meaning, the words breathe. As you comment, continue to ponder, or share, the words’ breath, their very being, carries on.

Often, when I really have something to say, I will think and write and revise and think some more. I will edit and re-write and let the words lead me to making sense of my world. And when I finally let them go, I wait for the answer to one question: Did I get it right?

But there is no right. There is only right now. Whatever I write, whether I publish it or not, is my reality in the moment. It’s part of how my world evolves. The words I use and the paragraphs that form don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be right by anyone’s judgment. Not even by mine. Those words are merely part of the picture.

I know this, and something someone shared recently (that originally inspired this post but that I can no longer find) has reminded me of it once again.

I don’t have to finish writing. I just have to start.