Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vertical Time

For the first time today, the house is silent -- except for the occasional soft purring from my 8 week old who sleeps a few feet away from me. My two year old is nowhere to be heard, at least until he wakes and charges into another day with his shouts, giggles, and stomps.

I wonder how best to use my undisturbed time. Exercising is at the top of my list, especially since I need to lose 30 pounds of this pregnancy fat. until I feel waves of drowsiness from my limited sleep last night. Then sleep seems the next best choice, but I don't want to squander my minutes of freedom. My pile of unopened New Yorkers seems tempting, but then I remember my blog -- and how I've neglected it. And missed it.

I've missed writing. And reading. And talking in more than short spurts between chasing a 2 year old around the house and tending to my newborn. In general, functioning like the kind of grown up I was in my 20s and early 30s.

As much as I love my children, I sometimes miss those days. When I could read a book or a magazine and work out and enjoy a cup of coffee in uninterrupted sips and get a good night's sleep -- all within 24 hours. But most of all, I miss connecting with people on a certain level, which is what writing allows for me -- and having long engaging conversations in a coffee shop -- the kind I indulged in as a college student. Talking and thinking about the grandiose subject of life and how best to live it. I get it in short spurts these days. Or if I do have a conversation, it is about how to potty train or deal with tamper tantrums.

I then vow to figure out a way to make more time for it -- and for me. I think about how best to squeeze it in before my head plunges into the pillow, heavy with all the frenzies of the day. Or to maximize the time during my toddler's nap to have more me-time. How to free myself from the array of menial tasks that dominate my day. How to fit everything in when there are only so many hours available. It's like trying to beat time at its own game. But I usually nod off before I can even formulate any cogent thought.

I then remember my husband's suggestion that life can be segmented vertically. That I don't have to try to fit all in one time frame. I don't have to learn to manage a newborn with a toddler, start a new career, catch up on all of the world's events, learn to cook, and figure out my retirement plan all at once. Or at least not two months after popping out a second kid. I can hold off on starting the new career for another year -- or five. And work on all the self improvement issues that have been on my list for the past decade or two.

I can't help but wonder if I've already used up the time to indulge on myself -- and to ponder life's big questions. That my 20s and early 30s were the times to do that -- and I am now passing through the time to live out the life that I was supposed to have figured out. I hope not.

When I was pregnant with my first child, a friend advised that the easiest way to be a mother is to give in to the demands of motherhood. That motherhood is so overwhelming that we should give in rather than fighting it. I now see the wisdom of that. To submit to the demands of the day -- at least for the time being -- and not to try to do more than that. To be easy on myself. To give myself the permission to be less ambitious.

The thing to remember is that this is only for a limited amount of time. In just a few years, my little ones will soon be off in school. They will no longer need me in the same way, and I can have back some of the freedom - or burden - of focusing on myself.

I imagine that in my old age, I'll probably look back on these days and think of the afternoons when I held my baby and nuzzled her. When I marveled at the string of words coming out of my little boy's mouth. When I was allowed the time to indulge in my children -- and they were there to be indulged in.

There is a lesson to be learned about the trite maxim of living in the moment. It is a lesson I have yet to learn. But maybe this little break from the day was what I needed to be reminded of all that I have left to learn.

In the meantime, I'm just going to try to refrain from wanting too much. At least for now.