This week's #wholemama theme was "be". It was a really open theme, and the more I thought and read the other posts written, the more clarity I kind of picked up about it. The idea is how to be a mother and also to just 'be' - yourself, who you are, who you were before kids and who you are afterward.
As far as who I am, and how I try to let myself just be me...
I am a reader.
I have been for as long as I can remember.
It's been my primary hobby for essentially my entire life. I could read before I could ride a bike without training wheels. I argued my way into being allowed to check chapter books out of our school library a year before the rest of my class. My grandmother was our town librarian, and I knew how to check out my own books before I was tall enough to see over the counter to get the stamp without a step-stool.
I've always been the one to be curled up in the corner with a book. I don't like large gatherings of people, and I'm uncomfortable at best with small ones. A book is my security blanket; if I always bring a book, I always have a way out. If I don't have a book I will hunt through the house to find a magazine to read.
The written word is my primary language. I write with more authority than I speak; I always have. My fingers keep up with my brain better than my mouth does, and with writing you can write and re-write and re-work until you know everything lines up, the grammar is correct. You can fix it before it's ever seen.
When I was in my last weeks of pregnancy, I was put on bedrest and I bought a metric ton of books.
These things were not unrelated.
The books were part of my hospital bag, and also my lifeline to sanity in the days and weeks after Audra's birth. While you might not think a newborn would give you much time to read, they do tend to sleep in two-hour shifts - and since it took me about three weeks to feel like I could put her down to sleep (and longer than that to feel like I didn't have to stare at her nonstop to make sure she was breathing), I spent a lot of time with a baby softly exhaling on my collarbone and either Netflix or a book keeping me awake.
I've continued to pick up books at about the same pace I used to, but now they're piling up unread or half-read or partially-read, knocking each other around on tables or bookshelves or sometimes finding their way into my daughter's hands (and then her mouth). Active infants need activity, and stimulation, and it's hard to give her those things if I'm curled up on the couch reading a book
So... I've had to let books drop by the wayside. Unfortunately, that's meant dropping a significant stress-reliever and way of reorienting myself. I feel a little off-balance without them, like waking up suddenly with a peg leg and no idea how it got there. I sneak words where I can - in the car until I get so carsick I cannot read any longer, at work during my lunch break.
For a long time I couldn't even use Audra's naps - I needed that time desperately to clean and cook dinner and do housework and to do literally everything that needed done in a whole day's worth of time. I'm kind of done with that whole way doing things, though.
I've decided to take reading back.
I am making a concerted, serious effort to muddle my way through those books I still had left to read, and to let myself be distracted by others in the meantime. I read in the afternoons while cooking dinner with Audra sleeping, I read until her little voice on the monitor shows me she's awake. I read before bed after she goes to sleep. I read past the time I should let myself go to bed. I have started taking books to gatherings again.
I feel a little less uneven.
I still have so many books to get through, and more coming out I want so badly to read, but I let myself breathe and take my time. This is how I give myself peace; I put on Bob's Burgers on Netflix and I open a book and I make a cup of tea, and I just... read.
With words, I can just exist.
It's hard to let myself relax, to be honest. There are always fourteen million things I didn't have time to do today. There's always a floor that needs swept or toys scattered around or just one more thing I could do if I had time.
I've decided, instead, to devote all the minutes outside of what must get done to what I want to do. What I want to do is live in books for a while, and Audra is in that perfect stage where she needs to go to bed pretty early but doesn't have enough language to start trying to negotiate her way out of it yet.
After she falls asleep, I pick up a book, and I just exist there.
I feel better in the morning when I had time to read the night before. I feel like I can get back to just being who I am again. Part of motherhood, I think, is seeking out moments when you can just exist, the way you could just be before you had to think of if the diaper bag is ready for daycare tomorrow and if there are two bottles ready to go and has the floor been swept and just what is she trying to eat right now?!
You probably don't want to know the answer to that question.
Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines. I won this book in a #wholemama giveaway! It came signed and with a beautiful printout of a quote from the book. I read it in less than ten hours total over the course of two days. I could barely put it down long enough to go to sleep or work. Amber writes with a kind of rollicking poetic voice. It's a very southern book - her environment is as important as the people around her. Kind of a hymnal drenched in honeysuckle. Loved it.
Gummi Bears Should Not Be Organic by Stephanie Wilder-Taylor. I've been trying to finish this forever! I keep losing it in the house. I should probably be better at putting things back where they go. This is a "mommy humor" book, and I collect them like trading cards at this point. Hilarious! I'm so glad I found it again so I could finish it.
Wearing God by Lauren Winner. I've been taking my time with this one, reading it kind of around other books, when I have the time to really read and re-read paragraphs. Exceptionally well-written, and probably my favorite of her books.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. A seriously incredible look at families with children who are born 'different' - dwarfism, deafness, schizophrenia, autism, and other differences are looked at in great detail, with Solomon really getting into families and how everyone deals differently. It sounds depressing on the surface but it's actually an incredible look at how parents can love their children no matter what in a thousand different ways.
Soon To Read:
Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I reviewed her first book, Pastrix, here when it first came out. I have Accidental Saints on pre-order. Nadia is a great writer and speaker (one imagines you sort of have to be, to be an effective pastor) and I'm really looking forward to this one. If it's anything like Pastrix, I'll reread it two or three times within a couple of months.
Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman. Part of a pre-order set I put in sometime in June or so (I also pre-ordered Accidental Saints and Sarah Bessey's November release, Out of Sorts). I've been eyeballing a lot of "living more simply" books. Lately life feels pretty hectic and I've been enjoying sort of falling into books about bringing peace to your life/household. Now, I never actually seem to put those tips into action... but it feels nice to read about it...
The World Is On Fire by Joni Tevis. I just picked this up at M. Judson, our new bookstore downtown (along with this awesome Dracula counting book for Audra!). It's billed as a sort of poetic, wandering look at America's strange obsession with the apocalypse and the End of Days. I've never read anything by her before, so I'm not sure. But I couldn't bear to not buy it after reading about its subject.
On My Wishlist:
People of the Songtrail by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and Michael Gear. I wrote a long time ago about how this series of books is essentially my guilty pleasure. They are the books I always fall back on when I want a fast-paced read and to just really enjoy a book. The Gears are working archeologists, and their books (which focus primarily on pre-contact North American nations, but have recently delved into post-Contact stories) combine the best of fast-paced fictional thrillers and well-researched, accurate historic detail. Their newest is about first contact between Canadian natives and the Vikings who were the true first Europeans to set foot on North American soil.
Bad Mother by Ayelet Waterman. I told you - I eat those "funny motherhood" books, especially if there's a heartwarming message in the end, like cake. I've had this one on my wishlist for a while now. It's a Must... if I can just read through my other books fast enough to get to it anytime soon...
I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster. You had me as "funny memoir". I've read three of Lancaster's other books, and she is a master at writing about herself. She's never so sympathetic that you feel like it rings false, and sometimes I would look at Jason and say, "I don't like the person she is in this book but I cannot stop laughing." This is another set of books I rocketed through. This is her latest and I'm excited to get to it. You know... eventually...
Even just writing out that list made me feel more peaceful.
Some people organize their houses. I make lists of books, and just pretend I can't see the disorganized mess behind me.
#WholeMama linkup. You can find the linkup for this week's theme, "Be", on Erika Shirk's blog Overflow. More information on what #WholeMama is all about can be found here. My other posts as part of the linkup or just inspired by the theme are I Lay You Down to Sleep, My Love, When It Rains... Celebrate, Parenting is Silly, Anything But Ordinary, Space, Prayer, and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom.