Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trading Spaces Back

It's funny how things work... a few weeks ago my mom wrote about how she never felt a need to blog until she was left alone with four kids for the weekend. For the past few weeks I have had other things occupying me besides blogging. Dave and I went on a trip to Maui for our 10th anniversary and then I was caught up in the whirlwind of concert preparations. Aside from being too busy to write about it all, I honestly didn't really feel much of a need to blog about my life: I was happily occupied in lots of things and while writing about it would have been nice, it was an easy enough thing to get sent downward on the list of "to-dos". But real life will intrude itself and suddenly blogging is looking like a good sanity break again.

The Cantico concert went very, very well. I was so happy with it and enjoyed the process immensely. It was a lot of work, but it was very satisfying, fulfilling work. My sister, Alisa, came out from Utah to play the organ for our concert. My mom and dad and two good family friends came from California for the concert and my mother-in-law flew out from Utah to be there for it as well. It was a great week, filled with family fun, beautiful music and good times all around. As I drove my mother-in-law to the airport on Tuesday, I had a conversation with her about how happy and grateful I was to be doing what I am doing, to have the opportunities I have and so forth. I also commented that despite Dave's crazy work hours, we've been able to find a routine that seems to work for us and I just feel like I've really gotten into the rhythm of being a mom and I enjoy what I do and just enjoy life. [Warning, warning...obvious signs of post-concert and family visit high... warning, warning, high wear-off is imminent, look out below....] So I drove home from the airport, secure in my feelings that I finally had this mom/music/life balance thing figured out.

Starting on Tuesday night, the high started to wear off. By Tuesday morning it was a full-fledged, drop-off-of-a-cliff straight shot into the dumps. Jackson was being a stinker, tantrum-thrower and mess-maker; the house went from pristine to completely trashed in less than 24 hours; Jared and Camryn were fighting like cats and dogs; Dave stayed at work until 10:00 pm for the umpteenth night in a row; Addy wanted to be held constantly and Jackson discovered the water in the kitchen sink (Jackson + water = wet hardwood floor and mad mommy. This was after he dumped half a can of formula the night before, making a very sticky, expensive mess).

But the clincher was when I saw a picture of me from that weekend that someone had posted on Facebook. I had no idea I was that fat in real life! What was I thinking going out in public looking that chubby? I had finally decided that I was OK with my remaining post-baby weight and while I was not super-skinny, was at least at a reasonable, healthy, moderately-attractive weight and I would worry about the rest at some point in the future. I also thought I had reconciled with myself that while it is important to be healthy, your whole life can't and shouldn't be about looking perfect, trying to stay the weight you were when you were 18 and going to the gym. I was wrong on all counts. How could I be so stupid and blissfully unaware that that was how I looked to other people? Oh horror!

My life had quickly transformed from a peaceful haven of love and beauty to a black abysmal pit of misery and despair. So what had precipitated this sudden fall? Aside from the fact that my fun concert was over, my family had gone home, I was on my own watching all the kids again, my house was a mess, Dave's work is crazy and the 24 series finale was disappointing with no closure.... :) On Tuesday night I read a facebook blurb about an upcoming concert featuring violinist Jenny Oaks Baker (who is amazing, by the way) and ended up internet-hopping and reading about her. Not only did she graduate from the Curtis Institute and Juilliard and play first-chair violin for the National Symphony for a bunch of years, she has multiple best-selling albums, tours the country playing concerts... oh and she's skinny and beautiful and has four children in the midst of all this.

But the nail in the coffin was how she wrote about how she performs with her two older children and practices with them for 90 minutes and 45-60 minutes a day, respectively. So now, not only does my fantastic concert not seem quite so fantastic anymore, enter severe mommy-guilt that I have skipped piano lessons and enforcing piano practice with my kids for the past 2-3 weeks as a result of being wrapped up in concert preparations. And even on my best days I can't get myself to sit and practice for 2 1/2 hours daily with my children. (Usually enforcing no Wii or TV until practicing is done is the best I can muster....) See, not only am I an artistic and musical failure, I'm a mommy-ing failure as well, stunting the future musical growth of my children by my lack of discipline! And I can't even keep my house clean to boot!

In retrospect, I should have recalled the wise advice of my college roommate Becki, who, when I contemplated calling and break up with Dave at 2:30 am one night for a stupid reason offered the following sage council, "Eat some Oreos and go to bed. If you still feel that way in the morning, then you can call Dave and break up." Problem solved.  But as I didn't have Becki to offer sage advice, I wallowed in my misery and failure for about a day and a half, I had a low-fat ice cream banana split with Dave (whose day at work had been equally miserable-- maybe my subconscious remembered Becki's advice after all), called my mom and talked to a friend or two to complain about my sad, sorry state and how HARD life can be and then perked up and had a perfectly cheerful day once my cleaning fairy arrived on Thursday to work her magic on my disastrous house.

Joking aside, the bad couple of days were very real and difficult. I struggle with the tendency to compare myself negatively to other people. To focus on my weaknesses and ignore the good things I do. To get overwhelmed with the demands of life and trying to figure out what the most important things to spend my limited time and energy on are.... And I tend to get guilty and down on myself because I know that I don't have a HARD life... my life is so easy in some ways, compared to the pioneers, compared to the homeless people in Portland, compared to any number of people, and yet I still manage to have a hard time of it sometimes. But regardless of whether it is "challenging" in any abstract sense, it is challenging to me.

I try to remember that life is meant to be a challenge and we will all have ups and downs, regardless of who you are, how much money you have, where you live or whatever. But this up and down experience is exacerbated when you are the kind of person that gets caught up in an idea, project, an ideal or goal and it propels you along until suddenly at some point reality whacks you over the head with a thunk again.

It kind of reminds me of "Anne of Green Gables":
Marilla Cuthbert: You set your heart too much on frivolous things and then crash down into despair when you don't get them. [Or, for me, even when I do get them but the experience is over.]
Anne Shirley: I know. I can't help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It's as glorious as soaring through a sunset... almost pays for the thud.
Marilla Cuthbert: Well, maybe it does. But I'd rather walk calmly along and do without flying AND thud. 

I'm definitely a "flying and thud", not a "walk calmly along" type of person. And I pay for that. But I think the flying is worth the thud. Or the whack on the head.

How's that for a long ramble? Welcome back to my blog....


Rebecca said...

Karen--I know how you are feeling--minus two kids! I've been jealous of Jenny's perfect life too in the past--then I talked to someone who's brother dated her and she sounded so high maintenance that it would me out. Sigh. Maybe she has tons of money and family help. We don't all get that. Anyway, wish my life were easier so I could help--but my days are similar at times! : )

Kelly(M&M) said...

Karen- everything about this post rang true for me- except I see YOU as someone who is accomplishing so much more than me. See how that works?! Others are looking at you and wishing they could have a few of your talents. :-) I think you are amazing. I am glad to know you and look forward to spending more time with you. The last quotes you gave fit me to a T. I definitely am a flyer. :-) Congrats on a great concert. I am bummed that I missed it.

Ranell said...

You know, I went to this amazing concert a week or so ago, and the choir was incredible! They did a huge variety of music, and one conductor did it all! She also played the piano for this incredibly challenging piece! She also organized much of the behind-the-scenes details, and practiced with the organ player, who happened to be her sister, for over 8 hours a few days before the concert in order to get it exactly right. Oh, and she has 4 small, high maintenance children (no offense, but they are), one of whom is not even a year old and still nurses and needs to be held a lot. And her husband works long hours and is a lovely man, but isn't around much for the day-to-day details. This conductor has her Master's Degree, something many of us wish we had! And she is only 30! Clearly she is AMAZING, and I wish I could be friends with her, just to rub elbows and maybe pick up a tiny bit of her energy and talent. Maybe she would even teach my kids or me piano lessons -- what a dream that would be!

Oh, wait, this is YOU Karen, and I do get to be friends with you, and you are AMAZING! Of course we all have our highs and lows, that's what keeps life interesting. The highs would not feel like highs, if we never had any 'low' days. We need the opposition to really appreciate all the good stuff. And you have a lot of good stuff going on! I know you don't need a lecture; just rest assured that you are normal (I would suggest MUCH better than average)and that we all have the same issues going on.

And don't forget that you have an incredible friend who came and got Jackson not once, not twice, but 3 times last week to give you a few minutes peace! Something told me (before you did) that you would need a little bit of space to recover from the post-concert trauma. Boy, I guess I am an amazing friend in my own way! ; ) I do have a few things I'm good at, even if it's not piano or directing a choir! How's that for tooting my own horn?

Lara said...

Like you, I tend to compare and compare and compare and I am finally learning how much it brings me down. Don't do it! YOU are wonderful. YOU do amazing things.

Jenny's sister was my YW leader, and Jenny used to come and stay with her in the summers. Even then she was an incredibly disciplined kid. It's her personality. It's not mine. I have to really work for the discipline. But that's okay, I'm good at other things.