The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

May 11, 2011

There were bells on a hill

Yesterday I read an article about a new study showing that South Korean children seem to have much higher rates of autism than American children.

Yesterday I got home from work, looked in the mirror, and saw a ladybug clinging to the collar of my jacket.

That’s pretty much how life seems to be going these days, swinging on a pendulum from fear/worry/angst to excitement/joy/hopefulness. I mean, it’s not like every day is a rollercoaster of emotions, but they crop up pretty regularly. It’s strange how you can want something so badly and be so afraid of it at the same time.

We’re entering the timeframe when our referral could come. Still a bit early, yes, but it could conceivably come anytime between the end of May and August. We could travel anytime between September and December, I think, if the current agency timeframes hold steady. This stage of our adoption process—which started in November 2009, when I mailed our first agency application—feels the most “real” yet. Our child is most likely born. We are eyeing every stroller we see on the street. I’m trolling around local message boards that discuss child care. We’re going to register in June. I’m going to tell my boss this month, and after that, we won’t have a reason to keep the whole thing secret any longer.

I’ve been having lots of big thoughts—about nature versus nurture, what we can control and what we can’t, about personal courage and strength, about what makes a strong marriage. What it means to be happy and just how important that really is. (I think we Americans place a higher emphasis on personal happiness than some other cultures do.) I think about those studies that say childless adults are happier than adults with kids. I wonder about that, thinking about things like getting good sleep, lounging with the newspaper, running four or five days a week, meeting friends for dinner, lingering and laughing with John at a bar or over a meal. Those things make me happy, and I won’t do them as often once we’re parents.

The thing that is taking their place will make me happy in a whole different—and, arguably, deeper and more fulfilling—way. I know that. But it will also bring worry and frustration and fear, and that’s going to mean a new way of living, a new way of feeling. Right now, we’re fortunate enough to not have any major stressors, other than the usual mild work or family challenges. I want this new life, but I also like my current, simpler life (even though sometimes it feels like something is missing, like I’m ready to move on to the next chapter). So I guess I’m just thinking my way through all that right now.

Of course, it’s not like I spend all my waking hours immersed in deep thought! Spring is finally springing in Chicago. I’m back to running outside, and I’ve decided to attempt my second half-marathon this summer, so I’ll start training for that soon. We’ve started planting in the backyard, and we’ll get our deck flowers planted soon. After almost three years with us, Stella has suddenly noticed the existence of squirrels, making our walks much more amusing. I’ve signed up for a four-week photography class, and I’m copyediting a friend’s first novel. John just learned to play “Till There Was You” on his guitar, which I’ve decided will make a great lullaby. We recently went to Michigan to meet my perfect little nephew. And we spent a fabulous weekend in San Francisco, celebrating the end of tax season and just enjoying a few days of doing whatever we wanted to, together, in one of our favorite cities in the world.

Last weekend we had brunch with some dear friends who live in the suburbs. We were standing on the sidewalk, waiting for a table at a restaurant. I was holding my friend’s blond-haired, blue-eyed nine-month-old, and a woman walking by wished me a happy Mother’s Day. “So funny,” I told my friend, “it’s not like she looks like me at all!” Then I realized, um, yes, neither will my actual child, and we all laughed, me feeling grateful for the woman's assumption. I pressed my cheek against the baby’s soft head and pretended.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Birdie said...

Wait a second! Didn't I tell you not to worry or stress? I know, talk about some lame advice, especially coming from me, the queen of all worriers.

All I can say is that I was exactly where you are, honestly...the random stops to have drinks after a movie, the carefree long brunches in a great cafe while reading a paper; for me, yes, very hard to give those up (there are still those days when there's nothing I wouldn't do for quick stop at the hopleaf). But...I wouldn't trade my new normal for the world. I still worry a lot, but I laugh more than ever, and you will too. Lounging with a newspaper may not happen the first months (or year), but you will see it again and find that balance.


I remember reading that specific article about happier childless adults before we travelled, and questioned so many aspects of parenting. I find that I still struggle with melding my buckets of "me" time and "Jee" time, and I try to realize that the time I spend with my child is "me" time, too.

Ugh, I'm totally rambling, Amy,but what I want you to know is that you are not alone in having your highs and lows and mixed thoughts; and it may be really tough those first couple of weeks/months. But you have a big support network here, and a friend that is just a stone's throw away who will gladly serve you coffee or martinis(no matter what time of day, no judgement :)) as our children play and you can simply veg or chat.

It will all work out, no matter what.

PS - we DID sing "till there was you" as a lullaby! And I cried nearly every time.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Interesting post. Thanks for referencing that article about happiness and (not having) children. Food for thought, eh?

7:10 PM  
Blogger Pix said...

You know, I worried about the same stuff. We loved our pre-kiddo life. Awesome dinners. Carefree lifestyle. Do as we please, when we please. Trail running and mountain bike racing. All these wonderful things! And that damned study stating that people with kids aren't any happier...I saw that too and worried. Would we have O and wonder what in the world we had done to our lives? After one week, I can honestly say that all those worries went right out the window. It's not a matter of being more happy with or without kids. It's a matter of the type of happiness you are experiencing. Concentrating on us and our lives used to make us happy. But concentrating on O now also makes us happy. I'm glad you are considering these types of things, and know they are very scary. It's all part of the process of becoming a parent. You are already well on your way. And let me tell you, it's freaking great!

9:34 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Oh man, I was right where you were about two years ago. I won't even read that study right now cause I'm freaking exhausted and it would probably bring me to tears. :-) I think it's a different happy. I'm definitely less calm and less happy-go-lucky than I was then... but now I'm prouder of what I'm accomplishing than I ever have been before. I will say that going back to work part-time was the turning point for me. I need that balance of who I am as an individual and who I am as a Mama. (And anyone who has met S will tell you, he's a hard kid to parent. He's the equivalent of three kids it feels like!) So before that I definitely would have answered that I was happier pre-kids... cause, like you, my life was pretty blessed then, and all the "good things" like dining out, or trying a new bottle of wine at a favorite bar, or working out... they were important. And I still miss them. But then my kiddo does something like ride his bike, or count to twenty correctly, or run to hold the door for a woman with a stroller and I think "I wouldn't trade this for anything." I can't wait to see you make your mark on Mama-dom!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Jaclyn and Travis said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!
I had your same fears of the old life versus the new life (I had those fears right up to the flight to Korea actually). I am only a week in but I can assure you that it is completely worth it. It is definitely a new life with more stress but also more joy and more love. The moment they put that baby in your arms the anxiety will go away (and new anxiety will replace it!) Enjoy all those activities now but I assure you that more fun is headed your way. I hope your referral comes very soon because you will be so in love.
p.s. I love all of your interests in your About Me! I would not be picky about which European city either (though I do have thing for Paris...ahhh Paris)

9:13 PM  

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