Phew! That was a long…Christmas…break. Alright, alright, for those counting, my last post may have been from Thanksgiving. But ’tis the season, am I right? “Things” happen! And it’s just so difficult for me to get structured in an in-between: wedding season slows to a near halt but holiday season hits highest gear, so one’s regular routine still isn’t established. You know!
So I’m sitting here listening to the official Les Miserables soundtrack and thinking about next year, coming in two days. It is easy to reflect on a year and feel a multitude of really intense and rather extreme emotions. I. am. Certain. I am NOT alone here. It’s certainly not uncommon for me to feel excited, inspired, and hopeful for all the things in my life that I will do “perfectly” in the new year, while also feeling anguish for how each year continues to slip away, sometimes so unobtrusively, and so trivially, and always ever so quickly, that it makes my heart ache a little. And then I begin to ponder what I shoulda, coulda, but didn’t.
I know the usual New Year conversation revolves around whether or not to make resolutions and to believe oneself when we want to make that exercising every day promise or whether we should just save our self hate and scrap it. Or whether or not to move away from this Central New York weather or whether to stay.
I am a self-doubter. For sure. It’s why I agonize over my choices as a parent and wonder if “I made the wrong choice here,” and “for surely ruined my child there.” And it’s why I end every wedding with starting my car, a giant sigh, and an enormous word vomit about all the things I feel I should have done differently (during which time my assistant is ALWAYS gracious, and an extraordinary listener). As a result, it is easy for me to justify always taking the “safe” route rather than the path that allows for greater failure. But this isn’t a profound trait. I think a lot of us fit into this camp. I would venture to say one is in the minority if he/she doesn’t resonate with much of this sentiment.
Anyways. This post is less about whether to make resolutions or not to. That’s a conversation to have with yourself. Instead, I find a much more personally relevant issue revolves around the anxiety of passing time. I have spent my entire life knowing what I want out of it. I’ve never wanted the unconventional extraordinary. I always knew I wanted to lead a humble life of motherhood where I was granted the most amount of time humanly possible to be spent doing life with the little people shared with me. I love learning; I love reading; and I mostly love writing. But I really loathed college, because it was so many years of intense racing not to fail. There was so much pressure to do well that I often lost the pleasure of experiencing the content and the learning. I hastened to pass the time in order to get closer to “arriving” at my life’s “sweet place.” While I do not regret waiting to have children and still hold close memories of my married life as a “perpetual sleepover with my best friend” and late night chats over Bees Knees ice-cream and having “heart-to-hearts,” there were several years I yearned to finally have children. Despite the perks of being a “dink” (Double Income, No Kids), I rushed a lot of those years away, because again, I wanted to finally “arrive” at my sweet place: being a mom.
So what happens when we grieve for fleeting years because we realize we HAVE “arrived” and would pay a countless sum to hold time still and absorb every giggle, smell, and hug? How do we move forward knowing that moving forward means we’re ultimately leaving these things behind in their current form? That’s really hard to confront for me. I spent a lot of my pre-mommy years wishing away time in an effort to get to the “good stuff,” and now that it’s here, I don’t want to spoil it by having anxiety about it going too quickly. I’m writing all this in confidence I’m not alone here. I can’t help but always relate my life to an acceleration and gravity lesson Mr. Altman taught me in physics class in high school: there is a split second of time where the object in upward acceleration meets the point at which gravity absorbs its motion (okay, guys. I’m a photographer, not a scientist!), and the object just previously accelerating stands still in mid air, before quickly and abruptly plummeting in the downward pull of gravity. I feel like this moment, right now, is that tiny second where acceleration has finally reached its stand still, but stupid gravity has rapturously devoured this sweet and innocent millisecond and yanked it into its submission of perpetual demise. Ugh, gravity is such a downer.
Here are a few pointers and thoughts I’ve contemplated to help me cope with the inevitable of slowly saying goodbye to this time.
And even though much of this post focuses on scrutinizing a foreboding rain cloud, I promise the tidbits below are more uplifting but are albeit very personal and rather “all over the place” reflections, with a greater focus on my family this year than my wedding season. It’s the New Year for goodness sake!
- When in doubt, always kiss your babies, even if it might wake them up or cause a weeping tantrum of withdrawal with which the the babysitter will have to contend. One never knows what will happen, and I never, ever want to feel that I withheld love or didn’t express enough love to my kids.
- There is something extraordinarily romantic about finding and keeping your person. There will come a time when my kids would prefer to spend their time with others instead of with me. I know, right? It IS hard to believe, but I know from experience that this time is coming. However, I have a beautiful, strong-willed, creative, immensely funny man who has sworn to always find me the most interesting (that wasn’t in your vows?). Well, maybe if we didn’t swear to find one another the MOST interesting, we did promise to always fight to continue to love one another and to make one another a priority. That’s the way it is supposed to be, and while the thought of my kids not finding me the apex of their world is tough to swallow, it IS how it is supposed to be, and I need not forget about the man who promised to make me the apex of his world—forever. We’re not allowed to outgrow each other, and there’s something really, really beautiful about that.
- When your three-year-old unabashedly asks, “Mommy, will you play with me?” it does NOT matter how many photos you have left to edit, or what agendas you still need to send out for the day. They are not the most important in that moment. Always, always, always choose “yes” to a request to play from your baby. Even if it is only for a few moments in that event, DO IT, always.
- I want to compare less, and love more. I constantly ask myself: What is the point of my life? And should, “make sure people think I’m cool” ever be on the list? I mean, we only get this ONE shot, in this really short amount of time. Do we really want to spend it on mommy wars, coveting, and posturing? Probably not. And yet we do, because we’re human. Instead, I want to come to a place where I can love so much that grace just oozes from me. I want people to feel safe and uplifted by my life, not attacked and put down. I want to be known as a giver and not a taker.
- Moms, create a “special box” if you haven’t already, and use it if you have! Actually put parts of your life and person inside this box. Beyond the lovely stories in memory, this four-sided protector of goods will become the holder of your legacy. It is so simple for a mom to become lost in her children. If I had a cookie for every time society told me about the mom who “lost her identity pouring herself into the identity of her children,”…. may it not be so! I have a box with cards from my husband (and he likewise for ones from me), I have notes I’ve written and left around the house. I have hand-written thank you cards from beloved clients. While I could die a very happy individual being known as “just a mom and wife,” I don’t want to be a personality-less mom and wife. That’s where the “just” part is allowed to creep in and spoil the amazing feat of motherhood. So this box gives my grandchildren the gift of better knowing their grandma. So find a box, and start collecting your story, dang-it!
- This has been said before by others, but it is so incredibly true: to be able to wake up every day and be doing what I truly enjoy is a gift and privilege. My profession has meaning, and this alone inspires me to hustle every day for it.
- Like most, I fail often. There is so much I wish I did differently. Sometimes I find myself wallowing in self-hate while I consider all the ways I wish I wasn’t Jen. This is not healthy. There’s nothing heroic about it. And there’s no quantitative evidence to show that this defeatism improves future results. Conversely, honest reflection is sound. We live in a society of the extreme where we are either told we’re so incredibly awesome that we don’t need help, which usually always ends in failure because of our self-centered attempts to do it all when we’re created as community beings and need one another, or we’re told how worthless we are unless we do this “one thing” or buy that “one gadget,” and so we beat ourselves into failure while we wait for material objects to save us. Again, this is not undiscovered sagacity or profundity. We’ve all heard this before. But being self employed is a constant invitation to be perpetually focused on what you still need to do, rather than celebrating what you’ve done, because innovation is the key to long-lasting success, right? Sort of. But all in moderation!So alas, I apologize that this post does not have the infallible weight loss solution for the new year. Trust me, I’m bummed too! But know that the existing notes do come from this fallible heart and from another person just trying to make another year worth it. Thanks for reading with me, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!