Thursday, January 14, 2010

Faltering Purpose

Lately I putter through my days, doing a bit of this and a bit of that. Finding it increasingly harder to prioritize my tasks, and organize my time. I leave a mass of half-completed jobs and projects in my wake. I get inordinately frustrated at the way of know, the way of things? The way you scrub the kitchen from top to bottom, and your son drops an enormous glass of orange juice that falls like a bomb, spraying over EVERYTHING the very moment you are finished. The way you find a bunch of clothes you've just washed and folded, stuffed in the dirty laundry hamper, still mostly folded, because someone toppled them out of the drawer when rooting through it, and then figured they must be dirty because they were on the floor. The way growing kids are hungry again 5 minutes after you've fed them, or how someone will always drop by the day the house is at its skungiest (skungy=skanky+grungy, ought-ta be a word, really) and you have just been plucking your eyebrows/have an enormous pimple on the tip of your nose and look like a fright. The way of things (also called Murphy's law). Usually I can be pretty zen about the way of things, but lately I am getting uncharacteristically irritable about the state of the house and my hamster on a wheel attempts at productivity. And I think I know why...

When my sons were younger direction was easy to find. Their needs ballooned to fill any available time and energy that I had. My path was clearly laid out each day, a hundred things I had to try to get done, a race against the clock, no question about what to do next, no time to question, just getting on with all the busy Mom stuff, trying to keep the house together, and myself sane in the process.

Now my sons are at an age where their needs aren't always as clear or as time consuming, for which I am grateful. But while those needs are just encompassing enough to still keep me home full time (they need to be brought home at lunch every day for a sensory break, simply couldn't handle being in regular after school care and frequently spend days at a time out of school with their severe allergy/asthma/sensory issues combo), I find myself, more and more often, starting my day with much less purpose than I need.

The kids are off to school, I pick them up at 11:15am for lunch...what to do next...

I mean, don't get me wrong, the floor needs mopping, the carpets could use a vacuum, there's all that laundry to rewash and what about scrubbing some dried orange juice off the kitchen light fixture? I could fill up my day 4 times over, but I am not the type who can draw much sustenance and satisfaction from such jobs. I need more. I do have phone calls and emails to workers, occupational therapist, respite worker, doctors to coordinate, volunteering and the constant tug of war of negotiating services and accommodations with the school...but OK, the balls are rolling, paperwork is filled, everyone in place. I still need something more.

And I thought I was doing a pretty good job of creating the "more" as I went along. I saw the many women from the last generation, the stay-at-home lifers, losing themselves, losing direction and purpose as the kids grew up, and I took it as a cautionary tale. I knew I needed to create a life for just myself amidst the mothering, and I did. I have cooking and art and writing and friendships and books and subjects galore that I have gotten excited about dabbling in and learning about, and still am enthusiastic for...but lately such dilettantism just isn't satisfying the "more" either. The bread gets eaten, the book goes back on the shelf, paintbrushes back in the holder...and I am still vaguely unsatisfied or just lacking focus...what to do next?

Most jobs come inherent with some structure and a system by which accomplishment is measured...a schedule, a punch clock, a deadline, a paycheck, a yearly review. My job doesn't. And if I start to try to measure my progress by some tangible standard, like is the house tidy? or are the boys doing "well" at school? That's when I am going to drive myself nuts trying to circumvent the way of things...and nobody, but nobody, gets to circumvent the way of things. There will be dried and sticky substances in some crevice somewhere, no matter how much energy I put into cleaning and pretending I actually care much whether the house is clean or not...which I don't particularly, to tell the truth. And a very large portion of how the boys are doing is no longer up to me.

So I believe I have talked myself full circle, but the fact of the faltering purpose, the ennui, the lack of satisfaction and accomplishment remains....January blues account for some of it, no doubt. And for the rest? I need a little more structure and discipline (*groan* I suck at those!), and some bigger goal beyond the dabbling. I love having a project. I need a project.

So I guess, we shall see.


  1. i feel the same way these days E. i am officially done all my contracts (for now) and looking around for options. i like projects too, hence the quilts. now that those are done i find myself yearning for another project. so far i have picked up a lot of pretty eco-spun felt and matching thread. i think i might sew some little guys for the Toy Society and drop them. thats all i have so far. Have also been thinking about starting another 43 Things list; a great spot to record and track Things you want to do. The only other thing i have been looking forward to is my garden. thinking of getting involved in a community garden, so there is that too! Seeds on the window in the winter help with the blahs :)

  2. Does it surprise you that I know exactly how you feel? I believe some of it is inherent in athome mom-hood, particularly when you never get the full day because of the lunch break, (not to mention the extra stress you get with the allergy risk and vigilant mom program) and I think some of it is winter, and maybe you're getting to the what the heck is anything about stage of midlife, and maybe you too, remember a job with goals and hours and paychecks. I feel invalid somedays, even if I write or create or learn, because there is no payoff for my family in that, only my sanity and noone sees that.
    What I see most days is piles of laundry and dishes and mess and no end, ever, in site and even if there were an end, and there will be, I'm going to miss these kids something awful and I still won't know what to do to make the best use of my time. The fig tree analogy, perhaps.
    Like leely I'm looking at seed catalogs too, fired up the dusty Aerogarden to grow indoor herbs and flowers, and waste inordinate amounts of time cataloging my spring and summer pics and videos.
    I have a geneology project, a kid scrapbook project, a video to digital conversion project and my writing, photography and art files to backup and a zillion books to read and I'm not crossing anything off the list, just adding stuff to it. Man am I eyeballing leel's quilts wondering why don't I learn to do that??
    Why is my house too messy to consider another project corner? Or guests? It sure does take a lot of stuff to own high energy, constantly growing and learning little humans and myself. Well.
    I wish you well, I wish you peace, I hope you can feel satisfied and happy with all you do at the end of the day and know you're doing the hardest job, the best you can. After I retired, having had a good run at carreer, no kids, then a gut wrenching career with one kid and just me and the kids, until school filled their days, I always thought the mom part would be so easy and satisfying. But I'm pretty shell shocked from no time off for the last 15 years, being on call 24-7, almost zero tangible feedback and wishing to be so much better than I'm already desperately trying to be. This was definitely not easier than wrangling gov't contracts, hazardous and radioactive waste and snippy chemists. Still isn't. I'm not sure what my job is anymore, or how hard to keep pushing at being a mom, when they tower over me. I keep telling them this is the hardest part, now that they see they are in a nest and have to learn how to fly.
    Whew. You know what I mean. I love your honesty, I feel you, fellow mama. We need a confidence boost or a vitamin shot or some light therapy, maybe a massage or a glass of wine or movie with some friends... time to reboot and jump back into the laundry piles and the loving and the showing up in case one of my babies needs a mom.
    Until next time, hugs.

  3. You seem to really understand where your feelings are coming from and I think that is a good thing. Perhaps a sit down with all your art supplies, expressing exactly what is on the inside, will help you release a bit.

  4. @ Seth Thanks for stopping by. And you're right, I at least have a handle on what I'm feeling and why, and that's sometimes more than half the battle. I felt better the second I pressed send on this post, just getting it out there. I figure, why not embrace the dissatisfaction? It'll lead to questions, searching, changes, and it's on that journey that I can thrive. And I did just that with my art supplies this afternoon! :)

    @ leel Thanks for the solidarity. :) Toys for the toy society sounds like an awesome idea! And I think you've hit on the real key for getting over this Winter funk...doing something for others. *puts on thinking cap*

    @Mel O Mel. Can I just quote your whole comment back to you and say, yeah, exactly!? How about just "I feel invalid somedays, even if I write or create or learn, because there is no payoff for my family in that, only my sanity and noone sees that."
    The balance =so hard!!! Without enough of doing my own thing I am going crazy, but even just a smidge too much and I am wracked with guilt.
    And "almost zero tangible feedback and wishing to be so much better than I'm already".
    And that's 'zactly it too...hard to ever be satisfied. I know, I could always be doing better and when I am doing well, hardly even realize it sometimes, because there is no quantifiable success. How do you measure it? Amidst the messy house, and kid balking at getting his nails clipped, and tussle with the there somewhere I know there is magic happening, I know I am doing good and giving them a childhood as close to the watermark as I can. But while I know it, it's hard to feel it, and almost impossible to see it. And I get restless, oh so restless, and a little down at times...especially at these in between times. So much energy went into making the Christmas magic, some post holiday blues are inevitable. But like I said above, better already. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to share this post (felt especially and wrongfully indulgent considering the situation in Haiti. I mean, boo hoo I am at a loss for what to do since I am so protected and well fed that I have the leisure to fret about such things!?), but I did feel much better for doing so...because a sense of dissatisfaction is my truth right now. BUT am trying to embrace it as an impetus for...I don't know...but somethin'. And the searching, the journey there is a good thing, I KNOW it.

    And you and leel are dreaming of your gardens already? We had thought of putting a little vegetable patch out back this year. Lovely to think of green things and warm earth right now.

  5. How do we measure how we are faring? What is the yard stick? Maybe thats the problem, there really is no yardstick. Even, so I feel most of the time that I am not faring that well.
    I wonder why it is that we mothers are wracked with guilt if the home is not spotless, we dont have the perfect family, the perfect job. Does it really exist?
    Reading your post I know exactly how you feel. I have been writing in my journal about my feelings of dissatifaction (and I am the only one to control that) and my need to be more DISCIPLINED, both in my life and my art. Much easier said than done though isnt it?
    Thank you for putting it out there, I was feeling a bit alone. I now know that I'm not the only one and thats a bit of a load off!
    Great reading the comments from others too. I am going to do one of those lists of 43 things and even if I can just get one thing done each day (dishes, laundry...that is a positive thing).
    I am having a day at home today and will make sure I cross a few things off my list.
    Thanks for sharing and baring your soul.
    Also, thanks so much for popping by my blog and leaving a comment on my little owls .... maybe you need one yourself. I would love to make one for you if you want to send me your address.

    Jacky xox


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