At times such as these, change is all around. There are more questions than answers. I’ve newly got all 3 kids in school and have simultaneously stripped myself of my professional armour. As a result I’ve become acutely conscious, and frankly a lot sensitive about the assumptions others are making about who I am, what I do, and what matters to me.
My life as it is right now does not sit well with friendly chit chat. My answers are all wrong. I’m not fitting into anyone’s boxes. I’m having all sorts of well meaning suggestions thrown my way, about what I ‘could’ do with my life. I’m having all sorts of assumptions made about what’s important to me, what my background is, about how I spend my time. I get that this is less about me, and more about people’s own values and belief systems. But it can still rattle me when someone assumes that I am joyful to be able to get the housework done “without the kids around my feet”, or when I was unable to explain today how I’m using my time (3 days into this new reality) had it suggested that I must be sitting at home in front of the telly. Another person commiserated, assuming that I’d be “lonely” without any kids home during the day (these are people who don’t know my kids, clearly!) but reassured me that at least I’ve got the dog to keep me company.
I am becoming the queen of non-committal answers accompanied by a friendly smile. It’s quite possible I come across a bit simple. These people are new to me. I am new to them. They’re just being nice. They’re just saying what they’d do or feel if they were me. I’m trying to be nice, even when their well meaning comments make me feel slightly desperate inside – make me want to shout NO!!! you’re getting me ALL WRONG….but why would they even know or care about that? They’re just making conversation after all.
What I don’t say during these conversations is that I am on the cusp of a freedom that has been hard to imagine for many many years. I am about to embark on something new. Something light. Something as yet unexplored in my life. I am giddy with gratitude to the school system we have. Not because it’s perfect, or flawless. But my goodness. The fact that there is a place that’s willing to take all three of my kids – for free – with all their energy and questions and chatter and indiosyncrasies, and not just take care of them for me, but actually teach them stuff too. Build their minds and their characters, alongside me. Help me out with this parenting thing. It’s beautiful. It’s magical. I am beyond excited about it.
What I don’t say, is that his is a freedom I used to dream of. A freedom that seemed it would never come when my first baby was born. A freedom that was absent when I was going to work and paying for childcare. As I see it, now is my reward for the years of pondering, the head scratching, the yearning, the digging around online. Now is the antidote to all the times I tried to organise my time better, tried to write my to do list with greater focus, for all the systems I tried and failed to implement at home to make things run smoothly. For the forums and books I scoured for answers. For the times I got tired, stressed and demoralised – stretched thin – anxious and overwhelmed.
What I don’t say is that this feels so unbelievably different. This feels slower, and smaller and free-er. And ill defined in the nicest possible way. This feels right for now. More ok. More peaceful than I can remember feeling in a while. The sense of space, of possibility is all around me. The air feels fresher. More hopeful somehow.
What I don’t say, but what I do know is that where I’m actually headed is probably not where I think I’m headed. Life’s taught me that much. It’s a stupidly exciting thing. It’s the opposite of goal setting. It’s staying alert instead. It’s like letting the water flow under you when you’re rowing. After you pull your oar through the water, the boat moves and your oar remains hovering above the water as you prepare to take the next stroke. That’s where I’m at right now. With the water flowing under me. Ready to take the next stroke when it’s needed, but allowing the boat to move for a while. It’s a chance to take a breath. It’s a chance to be aware. Because it always seems to be when I’m letting the water flow under me that that the unexpected idea appears, as if from no where. When plans suddenly take shape. When answers become apparent.
But of course I don’t say any of that to all the nice people, politely asking about my life. Instead, I smile non-comittally at their misperceptions. I look a bit simple. I wobble inwardly, and feel a bit vulnerable and misunderstood. And I sit in my metaphorical boat, waiting to see what the world’s got in store for me next.