Watch the Sky

The other day, I took a quick solo drive to the out-of-town public library to grab Micah some more difficult chapter books per his request.  Our local library is closed for repairs and due to parking issues, I prefer driving out of town anyhow, especially if I get to do it alone.

No work, no doctor appointments, no urgent tasks to complete other than purging before another (mini) family member joins.  Not having to rush from point A to point B or respond to urgent emails, running no other errand than the library run was rejuvenating.

I admired the spring flowers on our block as I walked to fetch our car.

Minutes later, I was driving on the highway with zero traffic, sun shining bright, when this ditty came on the radio:

If you wanna go and take a ride wit me
We three-wheelin in the fo’ with the gold D’s
Oh why do I live this way? (Hey, must be the money!)

HEY!  Must be the money!  I could imagine my girlfriends from two decades ago riding with me, turning up the volume and laughing.  Even in present day mini-van with our garish McDonald’s Happy Meal emoji hanging from our rearview mirror, I felt 20-something and extra grateful for the day.

Grateful for breath, my life and the life pop-lockin’ inside of me.  Grateful for the sudden surge of energy this week, after last week’s sluggishness where I would just have the kids gather ’round me in my bed.  Then another great song came on:

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

Life truly is about the simple things.  A solo drive.  No traffic.  Two great songs on the radio.

The night before, I needed to konk out after staying up too late to review some boring, time-sensitive documents (adult life).  I could have drifted into dreamland right then but I felt jipped of my sacred, quiet time after kids had gone to bed.  So I left my lamp on so that I could read just one exquisite short story from my new library book.  I reread certain passages and it was time well spent.  It felt like a square of fine dark chocolate or hot red tea after a meal.  Recalibrated my brain.

This reminds me to add a simple joy to my day in the raw postpartum days to come, when hormones are off from nursing while adjusting to the new normal of a helpless little babe completely dependent on me.

My parents did not appear to value self-care.  They believed that they could not afford to, that it was a wasteful luxury just for the unencumbered upper crust folks with margins in their lives.  Or maybe that’s what they told themselves as it was too painful to admit even to themselves that they could use some sweet time just to exhale and enjoy life.

I don’t fault them for this way of thinking as they had to work as much as possible to pay for life’s necessities.  They didn’t get to collect a paycheck from some air-conditioned office.

I used to follow my parents’ standards as an excuse for why I, too, thought self-care was fluffy and for folks who weren’t diligent and hard-working enough.  I went so far as to judge those who prioritized self-care in a way that was foreign to me, coming from my background.

“Another massage?  Another date night?  Didn’t you just come back from vacation?  How ’bout you take a break from taking a break?”  But now I see that my parents would have fared better had they not just worked all the time, had they somehow carved out small pockets of leisure.

When my mom owned a small gift shop in Panorama City, CA, working at least six days a week, ten hours a day, she would comment that the moment she heated up her lunch, customers would barge in.  And nine out of ten times, these would be annoying customers, those who would ask the price of her whole inventory with their eagle eyes and too many extended family members in tow, and then leave without a single purchase.  This is why to this day, I don’t like going into someone’s small business or vendor booth just to look, chitchat, or merely compliment an item without buying.

My mom would sometimes feel chained to her store. Once, when I was in high school and visiting the store, she sighed and said, “Sometimes, I wish I could just run across the street and lie down on that patch of grass, just roll around and look at the sky.”

I now wish I had insisted that she do just that.  Go right on across Roscoe Blvd., Umma, and lie down on that patch of grass in front of the old drive-in movie theater.  Exhale.  Watch the sky.  Watch the clouds drift.  Grab a cold beverage.  Think about something that makes you laugh.  I got you.

I remembered this when I was in Bryant Park last summer, and I purposely lie down on the grass in the middle of my day.  A homeless man was to my left, damp green grass under me, and the blue sky above me.

I am going to create more “Watch the Sky” moments.  Priceless.

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We are not to walk on the courtyard grass but I just had to get close to these beauties.  They looked like they were made of pink Kleenex.

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I mean, they were bigger than my kids’ faces.  Nature is astounding.

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Honk!

This is Part Two from the previous post, so it may not make sense as an independent post:

I was relieved to hear Kevin challenge me instead of agreeing with whatever I said in my agitated state. “But I think it’d be good for you to go to church.  You always feel better.  Then afterwards, you can have the rest of the day to exhale.”

So I drove me and Micah to church the next morning since runny-nosed E needed to stay contained at home.  I saw a parking space on the street so I pulled over to the left to grab the spot.  Immediately, the car behind me honks.  

I have Honk Rage.  HONK HONK HONK. As SOON as the light turns green here in NYC, HONK HONK HONK, HONKY TONK TONK! Honk You! Most Honking City I’ve ever lived in (Seoul doesn’t count because I was too young).

Perhaps I should have pulled over farther to the side? Had I not signaled?  Not sure. I just know that honks invite the Michael Douglas from “Falling Down” from within me to come out and play.  They transform this Calculus Camper into a wannabe thug who wants to respond to your honk with, “Oh, aight, you wanna go in? Let’s go!  Just don’t hit me in the face, son.”

As the car passed by me, I thought, “And I’ll just bet it’s someone from my church, too. Augh! Why do we even bother, coming to church week after week, trying to come correct, then go forth and honk away in this nasty concrete jungle. I AM SO OVER EVERYTHING! I should have stayed my ass home.”

The car passes me and the driver looks right at me, to see who had the audacity to pull over to park and cause an inconvenience. Sho ’nuff, it IS someone from church. For some reason, it makes my agitation grow though no previous ill will towards this person. Even though rationally, I know that maybe they were honking only to tell me to move over a few more inches.

But I don’t want to be rational.  Just one of those “F*CK EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE!” moments as I was already agitated.

After a tough Saturday, I CRAVED some rest in the form of sitting in the sanctuary and hearing a life-giving, refreshing sermon. I needed it. Spiritual spa.

Because Micah was having a hard time staying in his Elephant Room without his friends there on his first day, with mostly kindergardeners, I took him with me to the sanctuary to show him how close I would be to his new classroom.  In a moment of wishful thinking, or denial, I LEFT MY JOURNAL on my seat, perhaps subconsciously thinking that by leaving it there, I would get to come right back by myself.  To shed my negative thoughts and replace them with Word.

However, when we got back to Elephant Room, I saw just how out of place Micah felt on this first day and I promised I would stay the whole time, and would never sneak off.

During his Elephant activities, I told Micah that Mommy needs to run back for less than 30 seconds and get her notebook from the sanctuary since she was staying with him for the rest of his class.  He started shaking his head vehemently and crinkling his face. Since I had left him earlier and Micah had started bawling, I didn’t want him to cry again if we could avoid it.

“Fine, Mommy will go back right after service and get the notebook.”

We went back and it was gone.

I asked the ushers and everyone was really good about looking for it.  I checked the Lost and Found, and spoke to the person in charge.

I started feeling really weird, like my face was going to crumple up just like Micah’s. I felt really prickly, worn and fragile. PLUS, THIS WAS MY JOURNAL.

“I’m sure it will turn up,” assured a friendly face.  But this didn’t comfort me at all. In fact, it made me feel similar to when Kevin says, “Calm down!”

I couldn’t believe it but I just sat down in front of the sanctuary and started to cry. I wished I had stayed my ass home. I didn’t need any more irritations.

Obviously, it wasn’t just for the journal though I did feel mighty naked and out of control to have it floating out there for anyone to pick up and read through, even without malicious intent. MY JOURNAL.  As open as I already am, blogging for my tens of readers to see, the words in my journal are on a whole ‘nutha level of raw and uncensored thoughts and emotions. For anyone to pick it up and peer into made my eyes water and my heart beat fast.

Just then, a familiar face saw me crying and let me fall onto her and cry. “It’s my journal – I can’t leave and just hope it turns up.”

She promptly ran downstairs and found it for me in the one place I had neglected to check because I was moving too frantically from spot to spot, literally running through the church, holding Micah’s hand. Someone had turned it into the front desk. I hadn’t checked there after someone told me there is no staff at front desk on Sundays, only on weekdays. I felt beyond foolish.

The tears were for a lot of things. Stress.  Frustration.  Exhaustion.  Burnout.  Worry about the future.  Not anything new.  How I can’t get extinguish my envy when I see grandparents helping out regularly so that friends and acquaintances alike can reclaim their couplehood without the kids in tow.  In fact, lotta grandparents were helping out even more as the kids grew older.

It was such an appropriate analogy, my having to choose between fetching my journal (WRITING/ME TIME) or staying with my kid (MAMAHOOD).

Before I had kids, I needed long stretches of quiet for myself to devour books, write, think, swim, decompress. Just because I became a mama doesn’t mean that my natural constitution immediately reconfigured itself and I can do without those life-giving things. I am still at my best if I can have longer, more frequent blocks of quiet for my overthinking brain to cool off.

But reality is that my kids come first to my wants. Most of the time, I’m okay with that as that is what a Mommy does. I even embrace it because it feels like I was born for this.  But I’ve come to also realize that if I neglect to take care of myself in these ways I have labeled as pure luxury, I won’t perform at my optimum level..

I felt so annoyed that Micah wouldn’t “let” me go fetch my notebook, though I know he was really thrown by his new surroundings. Then, I started beating myself up over a lot of miscellaneous, irrelevant crap, including my crying about the damn journal.

It’s just hard sometimes, and even harder to say that especially using these trifling examples of “sacrifice.”  Big deal – I had to stay with my boy at his Sunday School. But it wasn’t just that.  It was an accumulation of thangs.  And I know I should be thankful.  Always.  That guilt makes me feel worse.

 As a Mama, I expect myself to be selfless but oh, how selfishness rears its ugly head. I want uninterrupted time to myself. I want to watch MY TV shows. I want to listen to MY music in the car. I want to attend MY service at church. I want to be able to talk to Kevin without interruption. I don’t want to share my mochi ice cream.

Why I gotta be the adult all the time? Just because I AM one?

YES.  The answer is Yes.

Growing up is hard to do, even for a Mama.  Growing pains are not just for the youfe.