Earlier today I had one of those revelations out of nowhere where your brain clicks and suddenly it all makes sense and the more you twist it round in your head and examine it the more facets you see, the more links you get. Needless to say its faded away now, but I wanted to write down what I can remember before it’s gone altogether. I tried to start earlier but I went to sleep instead.
OK, so the revelation was when I was riding a bike (hmm, think the last time this kind of thing happened was when I was running, brain take note). I was on goodish form earlier. I wasn’t on fire, but it was a good start to the week, I was the first up (at 7.30, the kids lay in, hooray) and I even tried making pancakes (unmitigated disaster) and we got to school on time, ok, there was a little shouting on my part at the last minute to get them out the door but I didn’t “lose it” and I didn’t have to drag any child screaming on the way to school (sadly, this has happened more than once). I had even got a bit done, started a to do list, cleared the now inedible veg from the week of no cooking out of the fridge, checked the home phone messages (a biggie for me, the oldest was 4th June) and the post (but not the unread emails), got organised for tomorrow (when we have a lot on), realised my priority was sorting food out, even realised that I can cook nice food with extras for me, not just to take around to friends. I am allowed to make my life easier too.
Ok, back to the bike, which I was riding to save time doing my shopping. I had just detoured past a mediocre coffee shop that my favourite barista now works at to see if he was working, he wasn’t, so I didn’t stop. (Is that stalking? The owner was in, he’s really boring and the place has no atmosphere when he’s there). To avoid looking really obvious turning around I went on a little experimental detour and that’s when stuff hit me.
It started with a thought that I had after my counseling session, not something we discussed, just something that occurred to me afterwards. OK, bear with me here cos my mind thinks in maths imagery sometimes but don’t worry it’s not complicated.
I think most people have seen a Venn Diagram, those overlapping circles that are used to show what sets/people/ideas/etc have in common and what they don’t have in common, popular in dodgy management/motivation powerpoints. (Ok, now I’m distracting myself looking up pictures of Venn Diagrams, bet you didn’t know they could look like this, I will stop now, if you’re a maths geek check this page out).
Anyway, I kind of have this image of me as a Venn diagram, a big circle for me and lots of overlapping circles, my husbands circle overlaps mine a lot, as do my kids, other peoples less so. Anyway I wondered what was in the bit that was left, the bit of my life that doesn’t overlap the other circles in my family. I mean, my kids lives are pretty simple, they’re either with a parent or at school, well nearly always. And my husband goes to work and has hobbies that he goes off and does regularly. Now I don’t work, so a large portion of my week isn’t in the presence of my kids and my hubby, but quite a lot of that time is filled with family related stuff, housework, shopping, filling out forms related to children, buying presents for them to take to the birthday party they’re going to, that kind of thing. And a small amount is related to my mum, like painting the top 6 inches of her spare room that she couldn’t reach. But I was trying to work out what was left, and I couldn’t. It felt like I’d lost my identity, and just become a background figure in other peoples lives (ok, slightly melodramatic but you get the point). I started trying to think about what I used to do, before I had kids, and I couldn’t remember, I couldn’t think of anything. Artghhh.
So this came to my mind, my lost identity. And I realised that I have my sewing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy sewing, but it’s kind of different to my husbands hobbies. I do it at home. He goes out for the evening and I stay at home sewing. There’s a couple of pertinent things about this. One is, it happens in the house, so it’s not without interruptions and it happens at my main place of work, so in amongst all the guilt inducing piles of laundry/paperwork/dirty dishes. Another is that it doesn’t involve meeting other people, it’s solitary. Sure I get to read lots of sewing blogs, but I’m not out talking to people. And another is that it’s a movable thing, it’s not timetabled in, so it’s the first thing to be dropped when time gets squeezed (ok, maybe not always, I have been known to ignore precariously stacked washing up piles in order to sew etc). Hubby goes out to his hobbies and he needs A Reason to miss them. And he books weekends away (usually for all of us but not always) in the calender. And before I know it all the time is booked up and we’re busy and frantic and there’s nothing left for what I wanted to do, which would be more of a last minute thing.
Still with me, because this is where the favourite barista bit comes in. I like him because he chats. So I realised that basically, I go to the coffee shop for a conversation, that’s what I’m buying with my overpriced coffee. Now, I always used to think I was an extroverted chatty person who loved being around people. More recently I’ve been reevaluating, realising the quiet down time I need and don’t always get around kids which makes me fractious. But, like most people, I’m not that simple and I’d forgotten the chatty bit. I don’t have that in my week. I have my kids, bless them they’re lovely but they’re not the best at sharing a conversation and I have my husband and err, people who work in coffee shops. Eek.
And then I realised that this has changed in the past 18 months or so since my youngest started school. Because before that, my week had children in and that meant meeting up with other adults. Going to groups and chatting with the adults, having a playdate, and chatting with adults. And now I don’t have them around, I don’t have that reason to meet up with my friends (and lets face it, that’s what groups to take pre school children are for, they’re for the adults). And meeting up with friends and their children when yours aren’t there is wierd, I know, I’ve tried it. So this is why I hang out at the playground after drop off seeking out people I know to chat with and don’t get started on my day. Because that might be the only conversation I have with a non family member all day. Eek (again).
Maybe this explains why I’m not apprehensive about the school holidays ahead. It could be that they’re still 4 weeks off. But it could also be because I get to hang out with my mates and have a natter and a cup of tea whilst ignoring the kids as much as possible..
I also realised something else that I used to do before. Maths. Until I reached my level in academia because it got too hard and lonely. But it used my brain. I’m not sure how much I’ve been using my brain recently. Not actually exercising it.
So, I seriously need some things to do. I knew this before, it just makes even more sense why now. Before I went and looked up evening courses and dance classes and the like. The only problem is they all start at that really awkward stressful in the middle of putting the kids time of day. And even I did decide to go anyway, I would probably want to go with a friend the first couple of times, and all my friends have kids and are putting their kids to bed too. And the dance classes I’m interested in I’d want to go to with hubby, but that kind of defeats the point. And I’m not sure what the other class is I’d want to do.
So, I guess my big revelation is, I have lost myself. Sounds like a fairly lame midlife crisis when you put it that way. It made more sense earlier. And it’s not that I’ve lost all of myself, because I don’t want to lose the family bit. I just think there needs to be a balance to that. And I need to figure out what that should be. By which I mean what it should be for me, not what I’m “supposed” to do, because as far as I can tell I’m “supposed” to go to exercise classes (as in that’s what I see other mums doing), and I don’t want to. Or join a book group (I love reading, I hate discussing books, never saw the point in English literature lessons at school). In fact I’ve never been much of one for organised activities, more hanging out with mates, but now my mates all have kids that doesn’t happen.
Right, enough navel gazing for now. I have washing up to keep on top of, an educational psychologists report to re read, and tomorrow I have to accompany hubby to minor surgery and be his responisble adult after, feed my mum lunch inbetween her attending my kids sports day things on my behalf and pick up 3 extra kids from school.
I have found just found this blog post by Blue Day Beau which neatly sums up how I was feeling, except it’s much more succinct and eloquent, if you got this far you should definitely take a look.