Feeling a bit uninspired yesterday, I passed along a blog post by Glennon from Momastery.com about the difference between Chronos time and Kairos time. Glennon wrote, “Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. It’s those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.”
The mother of a 10-month-old, I undoubtedly have my “let’s get through this second, minute, day” moments and my “I wish I could stay in this moment forever” moments. Yesterday, I had my very own Kairos moment I thought I would share with you.
Lulu (the aforementioned 10-month-old) is covered in dried baby food. She loves her black bean, banana and quinoa concoction from Happy Baby, but it adheres to her face and hands with the strength of super glue. A warm washcloth wasn’t cutting it, so we moved bath time up an hour. As Lulu was sitting in the tub with lukewarm water up to her belly button, she let out a rather impressive sneeze. The force of the sneeze precipitated a most powerful fart from my adorable little 23 pound baby. The gas escaped her bottom with such force that she was literally lifted off the floor of the tub as by jet propulsion. This chain reaction startled her and as her bottom plopped back down onto the bathtub surface, she looked at me with amusement and astonishment.
My heart burst with love for this beautiful little sneezing, farting creature. I laughed out loud. That good, deep, soul-clearing laughter that is always a surprising and cathartic experience. This entire sequence of events lasted mere seconds but the hilarity and sweetness of the moment has been with me ever since. A moment in time to bottle… minus the gas.
I am having a fuzzy day. Not feeling too inspired. My thoughts whirl around in my head. My body feels tired. Rather than become overwhelmed by this feeling, I am just going to sit with it for a while. It won’t destroy me. I don’t have to feel fantastic all the time.
I read this great blog post the other day at the suggestion of my sister. The post is from a website called Momastery.com and the author’s name is Glennon. I tried to just attach the link but couldn’t figure it out so I had to copy and paste the whole thing. Hope it formats okay.
Every time I’m out with my kids – this seems to happen:
An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, “Oh– Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.”
Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.
I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard.These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers – “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” – those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Now. I’m not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”
At that particular moment, Amma had arranged one of the new bras I was buying on top of her sweater and was sucking a lollipop that she must have found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn’t find Chase anywhere, and Tish was grabbing the pen on the credit card swiper thing WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, “Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you.”
That’s not exactly what I wanted to say, though.
There was a famous writer who, when asked if he loved writing, replied, “No. but I lovehaving written.” What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, “Are you sure? Are you sure you don’t mean you love having parented?”
I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.
Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I’m being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times – G, if you can’t handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?
That one always stings, and I don’t think it’s quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right…in her own way…and she happens to be honest.
Craig is a software salesman. It’s a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don’t ever feel the need to suggest that he’s not doing it right, or that he’s negative for noticing that it’s hard, or that maybe he shouldn’t even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: “This career stuff…it goes by so fast…ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!”
My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn’tin parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.
But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here’s what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:
“It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.”And hopefully, every once in a while, I’ll add– “Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up- I’ll have them bring your groceries out.”
Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn’t work for me. I can’t even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.
Here’s what does work for me:
There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. It’s those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.
Like when I actually stop what I’m doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can’t hear her because all I can think is – This is the first time I’ve really seen Tish all day, and my God – she is so beautiful. Kairos.
Like when I’m stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I’m haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I’m transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I’ll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world’s mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.
Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.
These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don’t remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.
If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.
Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.
Good enough for me.
This past weekend we celebrated my brother’s 38th birthday. Getting ready for his party, I browsed my jewelry box looking to accessorize and came across a silver cuff bracelet with my initials engraved on the outside and a date engraved on the inside.
An instant flash of heat and prickles of irritation radiated throughout my body. A lump in my throat accompanied a brief moment of shame and regret. These raw emotions quickly subsided and were replaced with some unexpected feelings – gratitude and acceptance. The silver cuff bracelet I never wore found its way onto my wrist Saturday.
The bracelet was a gift from my Mom. Although it was meant to be encouraging during one of my earlier attempts at sobriety, which was preceded by lots of desperate and pitiful phone calls to my parents, I hated the bracelet when she gave it to me. The year 2005 was when I came to the great jumping off place – a place where I could not envision a life for myself with alcohol but a life without alcohol seemed equally unlivable. What a horrible, lonely and excruciatingly painful place to be. I knew I needed to stop drinking but I could no more admit that I was powerless than I could accept a “God of my understanding” as somehow being a solution. This was a time in my life where I would string together 10 days, 15 days, one month of sobriety and then be driven back into the insanity of drinking because life sober wasn’t looking too much better than life drunk.
I received the bracelet from my Mom after an impassioned declaration of my intent to stay sober. Little did she know that between the time she purchased and mailed the bracelet and I received it, I had already picked up a drink. I could not stay sober for the life of me and I hated that stupid fucking bracelet because it was a physical reminder of my complete inability to manage my own life.
Despite myself, I did stop drinking for almost two years from April of 2006 to March of 2008. These were two of the best years of my life, but I lost my sobriety for all the usual reasons one does: I took back my will, I stopped working with a sponsor, I stopped going to meetings, I put myself at the center of my life, I let my resentments fester…. and so on. Things got so good when I was sober that I came to believe in the power of myself and came to believe that I could drink again like a normal person. I was out of the program from March of 2008 until August of 2011.
I am so grateful that I had a daughter in March of 2011. Being a mother taught me the definition of powerlessness and showed me humility in a way I have never experienced. In the first months of Lulu’s life, I was so exhausted from trying to drink, parent and work (in that order) that I surrendered. I was desperate enough to slink back into the rooms of AA. I knew there was a solution there the entire time I was drinking but my ego was so big that I couldn’t get myself through the door! Before Lulu’s arrival, I had resigned myself to live a life of silent misery as long as I could have alcohol by my side. I had too much pride to humble myself before the program that gave me so much and that I turned away from years before.
My first months back in AA, I had all this mental stuff going on about why I lost my sobriety, what the last three years could have been like if I were sober, where I would be now, I would have five years, Lulu would have had a sober Mom from day one, etc. As a result of working the steps these past months and really grasping the program in a whole new way, I do not “regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” I am grateful I am sober today and I accept the path that I have traveled to get here. Part of my recovery is appreciating the journey as much as the destination and working on acceptance of life on life’s terms.
Back to the bracelet. I have a new affection for this piece of jewelry. Where I used to view it as a reminder of my failure, I now see it as a reminder of the beautiful life I get to live when my life is built on a foundation of humility.
About a month ago, I started working on my fourth step, which states “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” I haven’t posted in a month because I have been sitting in my shit.
I put pen to paper and began listing people, places and things that make me angry. I hesitated and thought, well, I don’t really get angry. That’s not a nice emotion. I might get annoyed/irritated sometimes but I can usually just deal with that. I’m the nice one, the kind one. I got on team brain/ego and went about the business of analyzing and rationalizing and ignoring/avoiding/minimizing. I am very good at this.
With the help of my sponsor, I was able to get honest with myself about how I really feel. I gave myself permission to feel my anger. I tapped into some ugly shit. I unlocked a wellspring of poison at my core. I was seething with resentment, boiling with resentment, overflowing with resentment. I guess my tendency to ignore my resentments doesn’t make them any less real. Damn.
Doing a fourth step during the holidays is great because you are surrounded by all your lovely family and friends who you resent the hell out of. I have hateful and vile thoughts about the people that I love the most in this world. To be fair, I have hateful and vile thoughts about strangers, co-workers, neighbors, my dog, the weather. Thank God no one can hear what goes on inside my head. If my thoughts were broadcast, they would sound something like this:
Life is so unfair. I work so hard. I never get enough.
I can’t believe (fill in the blank) lives his/her life like that. I would never do what they are doing.
(Fill in the blank) has it so much better than me. If (fill in the blank) only had my life, then he/she would understand how much I struggle.
(Fill in the blank) doesn’t deserve all that money, success, good looks, support, good friendship, etc. – If my life was that easy then I would have all that money, success, good looks, happiness, etc. too.
No one takes care of me. I am always taking care of everyone else and never get to be taken care of.
I never get enough attention, no one listens to me or does what I want to do.
I have been wronged. Everyone is always judging me.
My resentments aren’t really about acts of harm done to me. I resent people for being themselves – for being human. I resent my loved ones because their entire being just rubs me the wrong way.
You being you gets in the way of my happiness because I don’t know how to feel about myself unless I compare myself to you.
I won’t bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say that I spent the four days over Thanksgiving running from place to place feeling wronged at every encounter to the point that I couldn’t even keep straight what I was angry about or who I was angry with!
Sitting in shit is not a pretty image but that’s how I felt. I was sitting in my shit and it sucked. It sucked to acknowledge my awful thinking. I am selfish and self-centered. I am dishonest and inconsiderate and driven by a hundred forms of fear. I see these character defects. I don’t want to ignore these flaws. I don’t want to stuff the resentments. I want a way to let go of my anger. Rather than bury that poison in some faraway region of myself, I want the poison excavated and eviscerated.
I know that the fourth step was preparing me to be “entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character.” I did my fifth, sixth and seventh steps this past Sunday and it was awesome. I have been stuck in my fourth step junk and yuck and five, six and seven helped me see the path out of that thinking/being. AA is an amazing program for living. It works if you work it 🙂
Some people say the glass is half-empty. Some people say the glass is half-full. I always wanted a a bigger glass.
If the directions say to take 2 every 4 hours, the alcohlic takes 4 every 2 hours, just to make sure we get enough!
I can do anything alcoholically! I can drink water alcoholically!
When I am actively drinking or living as a dry drunk, I am all about the about the gobble gobble.
I want more, I need more, I feel I am entitled to more. At holidays past, I couldn’t get the drinks down fast enough in order to warm myself up to get more closeness or distance between myself and others in the room. I would shovel in the food. I would focus on my comfort, my needs. I was a life gobbler… all about what’s in it for me and completely focused on the fear that there wouldn’t be enough of whatever “it” happened to be.
When I am working a program of recovery, I am able to authentically be thankful.
This year, I have the intention to be about the thankful part of the holiday. I am leaving soon for the in-laws, where I will inevitably be surrounded by alcohol. I am choosing to go with an attitude of gratitude. I am grateful for my loving husband and our beautiful daughter. I am grateful for my health, my job, my home, my extended family and great friends. Today, I will try to ask myself how I can be of service to others rather than how I can best serve myself. I will say a little prayer to keep myself out of my own way. I will slow down and be mindful of the fact that in any given moment I always have enough. I will not be a life gobbler.