I Will Be Back

lifeupdateSigh.  I had been doing so well with updates for a while, too.

I hope you’re all well.  I am, even though I’m not totally feeling like it right now.  I feel like I’ve just been barely keeping my head above water when it comes to personal responsibilities and self-care.  I feel like the return to a regular schedule on Monday will help, but holding on until then has been hard.

But I have updates; I’ve been working on a series of watercolor that I hope to show you all soon, and have two series of acrylic paintings that I’m aching to start on, but know I’m not in the right frame of mind to do so just yet (I’ll either be hypercritical or just rush through them for the sake of having completed something, neither of which are things I want to do).  I’ve also got some general life updates and some projects I’m excited about unrelated to painting.

For those of you with kids or who work with kids (or both, like myself), I hope the transition back to school has been smooth.  Bear starts K1 on September 3rd, and I’m already having anxiety dreams about it (I say “already.”  I am genuinely shocked I haven’t been having recurring nightmares since the day we got him registered, honestly).

Life is good, though it’s hard to see it through the fog in my brain right now.  Hopefully that’ll clear soon.  I’m looking forward to returning with something to show you all, with something I’m proud of.

Travel and FOMO

adventures of the everydayMy sibling-in-law — aged 23 — spent the day here on Sunday visting with my son/their nephew for the last time before moving to Sweden for (at minimum) three months.

I’ve got all sorts of feelings about this.

Not in the terms that people are probably thinking; I genuinely like my sib-in-law, but between the age gap, distance, and other factors, we aren’t close.  We get on well when we hang out, but the frequency with which that happens is relatively rare, and when it does happen, it’s really them hanging out with Bear (which, fair; he’s a pretty cool kid).  But missing them while they are on their journey isn’t really an issue; we’d probably see them maybe twice in the intervening time.

It’s more that I’m wracked with a near debilitating case of FOMO.

I don’t even want to go to Sweden.  Like, don’t get me wrong, it’s probably a lovely place, but it’s not on my bucket list, nor do I have any particular connection tot he locale or the culture to fuel my desire to visit it.  It’s the concept of travel in general.  It’s the freedom inherent in travel that I envy.

I didn’t have much in the way of a young adulthood.  Between my mother’s over-protectiveness and need to micro-manage, my own mental illness/anxiety, and the fact that we were barely keeping our head above the water financially, travel was something that was never, ever on the table for me.  The furthest I ever went was to New Hampshire — and ten minute ride over the border — to take advantage of the lack of sales tax.  When I hit college and my dreams of studying abroad were dashed for financial reasons, I fought tooth-and-nail for the few opportunities that arose to do anything akin to travelling.  I made friends with a girl from New York my Senior year, and after crimping and saving and a number of screaming matches with my mother, finally managed to make a couple of trips to Westchester over breaks and long weekends.  That would be the totality of my travel experience until I got married.

In the intervening years since, it’s gotten a little better; I’ve been to Maine and Vermont, Florida multiple times, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Quebec, and Montreal.  But in the intervening years, despite shaking off the shackles of my over-bearing mother, I now have a job, a kid, and a mortgage.  I’ve never quite been able to pull my head above water financially, at least with regards to travel.

I get restless easily.  I, like my husband, thrive on schedules and routines, but I also love deviation from the norm, provided it’s self-directed and desired; I balk at change thrust upon me, but will gladly throw myself into something new should the prospect appeal to me.  Being told that there are Things to Be Done and that those same things are Things I will Never Have the Chance to Do Them in the same breath is heart-breaking.  Knowing that the stories so many of my friends tell of their exploits — be they student exchange trips, AmeriCorp or PeaceCorp service, backpacking trips as college kids, or luxury resort-hopping as adults — are things that are always going to be aspirational for me, without the prospect of fulfillment, kills me.

There’s freedom in travel, but not everyone has the freedom to travel.  My husband works a job where securing time off is difficult, and his time off is limited.  We need to travel someplace child-friendly, or else make sure we can find long-term babysitting for our son, and round-trip domestic flights alone often cost nearly half a month’s income (and that’s just the flight).  It’s not that we can Never, Ever Travel Ever, it’s that at the end of the day, it’s more work.  It’s months and months of saving and sacrificing, planning and prioritizing, and even then, our options are limited by when we can secure time off, how much we can afford to take, and how quickly we think we can recover our losses.

So when I see friends and family — and it’s been happening more and more frequently lately — talk about booking flights and resorts and trips and cruises, with what (to me) is startling frequency, it hurts. Just a little.  And just a little more each time.

I am happy for them; for my sib-in-law, for my friends and family.  I just wish it was something I could be a part of.

Children and the Relentless Onslaught of Time

adventures of the everydayThe last few weeks, even more so than usual, has been one long reminder of the relentlessness of time.

This should not be some grand revelation.  I know I’m getting older, you know?  Like, unquestionably.  My joints make noises that if, say, my car was making, it’d be in the shop the same day.  One beer, and I’m falling asleep at the dinner table.  And this past year, I realized I have a favorite goddamn Tupperware¹ — that’s game over, folks.  That’s peak Old Person, right there.

But I have the context of years to gauge my change, you know?  Everything that I’m cognizant of everything that defines me as a person, has come to be over the course of years.  And at some point, I don’t want to say I stopped growing, but I definitely hit a plateau.  Twenty-seven-year old Jess was a totally different person than seventeen-year-old Jess, but twenty-seven year old Jess and  thirty-seven-year old Jess have a hell of a lot in common (minus a penchant for painting, a few stretch marks, and about fourteen inches of hair), even though the same ten years separate them.

That’s because at some point we just sort of stop Becoming, and just… Are.  We spend years and years figuring things out, making major cognitive, social, and emotional leaps, and then — for most of us — that all sort of tapers off.  It’s not that we don’t still grow and change, but at some point in our adult lives, personal revelations and milestones generally become a lot fewer and further between.

But having a kid has thrown my sense of time out the window.  Because my son is four-and-a-half and still very much Becoming, and he is Becoming at a pace that is astounding, and exciting, and relentless.

Because in his life, absolutely fucking everything is revelatory.  Everything in his life is felt with the intensity of the novel: an Experience, or an Adventure, or a Tragedy.  He’s hitting new milestones at a breakneck pace, waking up some mornings suddenly able to do something or understand something that he’d be struggling with hours before sleep the previous night.  New words are entering his vocabulary everyday, and his ability to regulate, read, and respond to his own and other peoples’ emotions with nuance is growing and developing constantly.

And now he’s starting pre-K.

And we’re jumping in with both feet.  No half-day, three-days-a-week trail period; starting in September, Bear will be at school from 7:45 to 3:15, five days a week.  He has a uniform.  He’ll pack a snack and eat a served breakfast and lunch.  He’ll have music and theatre recitals, he’ll do art projects.  He’ll learn to read.

Jesus.

It’s scary. I mean, it’s ridiculously exciting, too, but also scary, to see the last remaining vestiges of the Baby I’ve coddled for the last four years fall away and reveal, like, a Big Kid.  Someone who gets their own food from the fridge, uses the potty by himself, picks out his own clothes and dresses himself, and now, goes to school.  Someone who’s sphere of influence is about to grow dramatically.

That does scare me.  I’m ecstatic for my son to meet new people — he is social and sociable almost to a fault (“I have no stranger danger!”) — but I am afraid of the boy I have raised to be curious, creative, experimental, and unburdened by gender expectations being hurt, or ridiculed, or called out for being different.  It’s a common fear, I know.  It’s probably also mostly unfounded, as he always has the support of our family and friends, but the fear is there.

My time as his Greatest Influence is coming to an end soon.  His peers, his friends — their opinions are going to start holding a lot more weight very, very soon.  It’s scary.

And it’s relentless.  It just keeps going on from here, where I watch my son move further and further away from me.

Here I am, trying to juggle the time I have left with my Baby while prepping him to be successful as a Big Kid, struggling to keep my own life on track and my creativity afloat.  Trying to cram as much as I can in the brief time I have before I have to re-add work to this mix.

Right now, I have one week left.

I wonder how long I would need for it to ever feel like I had enough.


¹Mr. Lid.  Fucking life-changing.

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