An extraordinary thing has happened in the past couple of weeks. We had heard stories of this phenomenon from other families but it had, to date, eluded us entirely. Little man has started to go to bed before us. We are welcoming the return of “the evening”.
The first night it happened I was overjoyed and not a little incredulous. Just think of all I’ll be able to get done! Imagine watching a whole film without interruption! Can I even remember what it was to eat dinner accompanied by adult conversation? I can have a bath! And read a novel! And, most excitingly of all, ACHIEVE THINGS!
When it came down to it, I morphed into a strange, glassy-eyed, slightly deranged figure, wandering aimlessly between rooms with no idea what to do. Without a baby attached to my person somehow, I felt bereft and not a little confused.
Andy has this phrase he uses to describe the endless cycle of laundry, tidying, cleaning, paying bills, fixing all the stuff that breaks. He calls it “getting back to zero”, and gets not a little frustrated at how long it always takes. We have this drive to be out in the world, moving things forward, making new things, and yet we have to waste all this time just “getting back to zero.”
And it was funny when I got my evenings back, I had that sensation – finally, the baby’s asleep, the laundry’s up-to-date (thanks darling), I HAVE GOT BACK TO ZERO. I CAN DO STUFF AGAIN!
I just couldn’t work out what the stuff was I should do.
(Okay, the flat is still fairly chaotic, I could have done more tidying but that wasn’t the point).
My life over the last four months (thanks to the amazing gift that is British maternity leave) has become about looking after the wee man. He’s not just the cute-but-annoying practicality I have to accommodate until the moment when real life kicks back in. He is life.
And I realised another thing I do. When things are tough, or draining, or overwhelming, one of my chief coping mechanisms is planning my way out. Planning the next thing. Looking ahead to the next adventure. Seizing life by the neck and taking it my way.
That’s why the beginning of Jesse’s life was especially terrifying, because I could not think ahead. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope with tomorrow, let alone next week so please God don’t make me even contemplate it. Today, I can do today, or maybe just the next feed.
Now that life is not so frankly overwhelming on a minute by minute basis, I do have the headspace and the time to think ahead. I have started looking in at the window displays of estate agents (we’re not moving house); I am puzzling over my job and return to work (I’m not due back till 2015); I have a few crazy ideas about complete changes in life direction (which alter daily). It’s my go-to-strategy when today feels scary in its smallness, or draining with it endless feeds and vomits (his, not mine).
But I’m slowly understanding that the frantic forward planning does me no favours. It robs me of the moment by moment joy of now, and the things I’ll learn and the ways I’ll change whilst I concentrate on loving and looking after little man. Not that I’m saying every moment is joyous. But I’d like to not be too scared to face each moment, for all their highs and lows. It would be good not to plan my way out just yet.
So that still leaves me with my evenings. Once I move past the zombie phase, and skip over the mapping out of my future, it would probably be good to remember how to relax. And I think something creative would be good.