the struggle is real
this morning i'm at kroger with bina wheeling around the dumb cart with the play car in front. which, side note, just equals less cart space and a much longer cart to maneuver. thanks so much to whoever invented these dumb things that my kid sees and flips out about and next thing i know i’m wheeling around a double long grocery cart with my toddler jumping in and out because the seat belt is broken. so this is the state in which you find me as i'm rolling through the produce section of kroger. as we wheel past the deli area, this lady at a table with a bunch of sweetest day theme stuff is like “do you want a balloon? i've been trying to get rid of this one.” (because who cares about sweetest day, halloween is a week away and everyone knows valentines is in february). and i think, sure. usually when they ask like that they’re free. bina likes balloons. i take it and give it to bina, then decide to clip it to the cart so she won't lose it through the rest of our shopping trip. i'm just imagining it floating up to the ceiling and her having a meltdown about it. because that is exactly what would happen if i let her be in charge of it. the balloon is slightly obnoxious and i wish i had just said no thanks. but hey. free balloon. who complains about that.
once bina jumps in and out of the play car one too many times for me, i wrestle her into the grocery cart seat and clip her in. can't handle uncooperative two year old any longer. and hello, now i am the mom with the screaming two year old who is sucking on her hands and complaining about her shirt being "wet, wet." (THEN STOP SUCKING ON YOUR HANDS AND DRIPPING SLOBBER ALL OVER EVERYTHING). i'm just trying to get out of the store with both of us alive at this point, don't mind me. i use the self checkout and then head to the entrance. i start wheeling through the sliding doors and beeping goes off. i stop. pull the cart back into the store. try to figure out what could have caused the beeping. can't think of anything. no kroger attendant has come to assess the situation. so i decide to walk slowly back through a second time. no beeping. i shrug and roll out to my car. as i am loading groceries into the car, it dawns on me. the balloon.
i look at the balloon and see a "woohoo $3.50" (the “woohoo” is kroger's way of signifying a discount) price tag on it. curses. i contemplate how much of a sinner i would be if i just left with the stupid balloon. no. that would be stealing. so i roll bina and my double long cart and this bane-of-my-existence-balloon back to the entrance of kroger. i don't want to go back in the store. it's already pushing close to lunch and nap time. there's a sign just before the sliding doors into the grocery and i think "i'll just clip the balloon to this sign, return my cart, and be done with it." i clip the balloon to the sign. sign falls over. nice older woman shopping by herself looks at me and comments on how i broke the sign. oh. let me try again. i put the sign back up, clip the balloon, and again sign falls over. ok. one more time. i put the sign back up, clip the balloon, and somehow the balloon manages to break free from the ribbon and floats up into the vaulted ceiling. so now i'm just left with the clip and ribbon, and the broken (again) sign. at this point i just want to burst into tears. omg. i cannot handle free balloon that is not free that i accidentally stole. then returned. or, at least attempted to return. in the process of attempting i break the sign AND the damn balloon.
another mama rolls up with a double stroller and three kids in tow. she looks at me and says "just leave it, they'll fix it." done. i'm out. i return the cart and walk back out to the car with bina. i strap her into the carseat. i climb into the driver's seat and start texting my mommy friends from austin on our group text, tears rolling down my cheeks. simultaneously laughing at how ridiculous this stupid scenario is. as i do so, bina starts shrieking in the back. a minute later i whip around and yell STOP IT in my horse man voice (thanks, fall, allergies and sinus head cold). she stops. this makes me silently cry more. mother of the year, here. take a bow.
thankfully we make it home. bina eats two strawberry yogurt tubes, cut strawberries, and a bit of guacamole for lunch. a win in my book. now she's napping. i think. i hope. at any rate, we survived. reset for the afternoon. lets not continue the trajectory of this day. give me all the grace, jesus. he knows i need it.
my mom was here this past weekend for my sister-in-law's baby shower sunday afternoon. it was really nice having her here.
she watched bina on saturday night so david and i could go out on a date. we went to jolly pumpkin in ann arbor and then walked around the university of michigan campus before heading home.
being in ann arbor and walking around U of M's campus makes me feel like we're almost back in austin. david and i had some heart to heart conversation sitting on a bench in front of one of the buildings on campus while watching students wander by, talking about student things. cue the rabbit trail: i miss students. i used to work with graduate students. i loved my job, my coworkers, my trajectory. i was good at what i did. things were so much better then, weren't they? back when we were both doing jobs we could do well, me a graduate program coordinator, david a phd student. the glory days. yes, the glory days. or were they?
david and i both discussed how we've had some hard years, but the last year and a half has probably been the hardest. or was it our first year in austin was the hardest, and the last year and a half has been the second hardest? meh. details. anyways. whenever things get real uncomfortable, we get nostalgic. we've been living in the tension lately. the tension of uncertainty surrounding the adoption process. for david, the tension of getting acclimated into a completely new career path. he was on track to be an expert in his field when we were at UT austin. now he's a novice again, albeit an extremely motivated and hard working one. i'm thankful to have the opportunity to be home. but it's hard. and it's thankless. and i'm falling behind on the respectable time to be a stay-at-home-mom-with-just-one-kid-while-you-wait-for-number-two timeframe. i don't have performance reviews anymore. no satisfaction of completing a recruitment cycle, no "congrats on that awesome event!" or a "thanks for being so helpful!" from a student. no collaboration between departments, or happy hours with my favorite co-workers after a long week. nope. none of that.
i realize when we look back, when we're nostalgic, we get into that "the grass is always greener" mentality. which can be quite dangerous. of course there were things that drove us nuts about life in austin. even things about our jobs that we were so "good" at. but when we look back, we don't think about those things. if we want to remember those things, we have to struggle to remember them. for me, my commute sucked. i was pumping three times a day. i was stressed about the fact that i had used all of my leave (vacation and sick) on maternity. i was stressed thinking about how in the world would i be able to build up enough leave to cover maternity leave on a future baby (i wouldn't be able to, this is virtually impossible).
i missed sabina while i was at work. i remember the day i went to pick her up from the house of our friend who watcher her, and bina clung to our friend instead of wanting to come to me. basically the shittiest feeling ever. i WANTED to be with her. i WANTED to be her primary caregiver. i didn't want to pay someone else to do that (ps if you want to pay someone else to do that, or have a family member who is able and willing, more power to you. this is just commentary about how i feel about my situation, not how you should feel about yours). she turned our world upside down and shifted our priorities. it was because of her that we even started considering the return to michigan and a complete career change for david. and now we're here. and it's been good in a lot of ways, and it's been hard in a lot of ways. even some ways we hadn't anticipated. because that's life! messy, uncertain, always changing life.
lean into the discomfort. don't look back to the greener grass of yesterday-year, lean into today.
at my sister-in-law's baby shower this weekend, i was joking with my aunt and cousins about how david and i left jobs we were good at and sometimes we just want to go back to the jobs we were good at. my aunt said i'm a good mom and i'm just too hard on myself. days like today, i don't feel like a good mom. and i AM really hard on myself. i left a promising career in higher education back at UT austin to become a stay at home mom. we had hoped to grow our family by getting pregnant last fall. failed at that. changed course and started pursuing adoption. that's taking longer than we anticipated and our experience is blowing up my expectations of the process. i started pumping mid july thinking we could be approved and placed as early as late august. it's now late october and we're not yet approved (not because of anything wrong with us or our home study, just the nature of the process). sometimes i wonder if we should have just started trying to get pregnant again. but if we did get pregnant, we would have to stop our adoption process. we're eight months in. i'm not willing to sacrifice all that work, all that waiting. god gave me those two beautiful brown newborn babies to hold several weeks ago in the church nursery. the woman who brought them said she wasn't planning on bringing them again (they weren’t her babies, she brought them for a friend). so the fact that they came only once, that we've never had newborns in nursery since we started volunteering until that day, that we only volunteer once a month during one service, and those babies came the weekend we served when i was most discouraged and in need of a bone to keep going -- that's not a coincidence. that's god. doing his god thing. showing me his kindness. and when i lose heart, i make myself think on those two sweet babes. i know that soon we will be approved to be a waiting family. soon we will be matched, placed. soon i will hold the babe of the birth mama who chose me and david to be the ones who raise the life that she grew inside of her. soon. i don't know when "soon" is, but soon. and oh does it hurt in the meantime. i feel the tension, the discomfort, the uncertainty. i question, doubt, wonder.
why, my soul, are you downcast? why so disturbed within me?
put your hope in god, for i will yet praise him,
my savior and my god.
i first came across this verse in college when i was struggling with insomnia and anxiety. these days, i feel like i am constantly needing to preach the gospel to myself. i can get so weighed down by all the things that i lose my focus. i forget my hope. i let go of my anchor. and that is when the night can get so very dark. and that is when i have to take myself by the shoulders and say STOP IT. i yelled it at my two year old today because her shrieking in the back seat was driving me insane. i need to yell it at myself because my metaphorical shrieking of discomfort and pain is drowning out god's voice, his truth.
i picked up ann voskamp's the broken way again last night. i had started it months back and then got sidetracked by other books. but lately i've been feeling so broken that i thought it was time to open it again. of course the page i left off on gave me the solution to my problem:
"...meaning comes when one does something that 'points, and is directed to, something, or someone, other than oneself...by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love.' maybe that's how you peel back everything that distracts and cheapens and derails a life--transcend this life by giving yourself for someone else" (p. 92). i've got to take the attention off of myself. off of my uncertainty. off of my waiting. off of my tension and discomfort. give myself for someone else.
so that is my prayer this week. god, show me. show me ways to love others well. right now. in this particular season of my life. show me how to love bina well. how to love the mamas around me well. how to love their littles well. give me insight that i might be able to help another mama lean into her discomfort, that we can support each other and fight together. show me how to love david well. show me how to love my neighbors well. show me how to love the people in my community and surrounding area well. open my eyes to the opportunities right in front of me, to give myself for someone else. and in doing so, renew my hope. because the struggle is real, and i want to lean into my discomfort and love others well in the process.