Friday, May 31, 2013

A Tentative Love Note to Colorado

Well Colorado, you may not be Home to me yet, but I'll say this for you - you are beautiful and your  glorious, get-outdoors, summer days are doing a decent job of wooing me.

For instance, last weekend when our little family took a day trip (just forty-five minutes away) to Manitou Park Lake and we got to enjoy the wonderful summer weather and watch our Littles explore the great outdoors to their heart's content - that was pretty great.

Digging in the dirt, hiking through the woods, throwing pine cones, climbing rocks - these are the things my little boys filled their day with. And I loved watching them get dirty and exhausted as they discovered the great big creation around them. It made my mama's heart so happy.

And the two Memorial Day BBQs we attended. They were outside (a novel experience for this Phoenix girl who associated Memorial Day BBQs with heat and sweat and hiding indoors). We ate great food and caught up with our only in-town family. We laughed and chatted with new people and starting to build those rickety bridges to new friendships. And we had a great time. 

This past weekend with you, Colorado, was refreshing and lovely. Thanks for that.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Being The New Girl

It's awkward to wiggle your way into new friendships. When moving to a new city, you meet mostly people who already have their own circle of friends, their established trust, their shared memories, and their inside jokes. It is intimating to try and meld into that. It's not that people are unkind or unfriendly, they are simply creatures of habit and it is easy to move through life's routine without noticing the new girl.

I was guilty of a similar attitude back home in Arizona. I never joined a "mom's group" when I had the twins and I was even hesitant to started attending the Bible study group at our previous church. Why? Mainly because I was fulfilled, occupied, and content with the friendships I already had. I didn't see the point in exerting time and energy making new friends. I'm happy with the ones I got, thanks.

So with that memory in mind, I realize that I have to be the one to make the effort to form new friendships here. It is unlikely that someone is going to just up and invite the new girl out for a good heart-to-heart over a steaming cup o' joe. More likely than not, I will have to be the one to initiate the playdates, the dinners, and the coffee talks. The age-old advice of, "You've got to be a friend to make friends" really is true. Socially awkward at times - but true.

Even so, it is easy - even as "the new girl" - to get caught up in my own routine without making the effort to meet new people. Another week, another month, flies by as I'm caught up in my daily tasks and habits until I realize - wow, it's been a whoooole lot of days since I've talked face-to-face with someone other than my husband and children.

Now let me interject here that my husband has been an amazing encouragement to me during this move - allowing me to share my heart (and often my tears) and creating opportunities for us to get out a do fun things together as a family. I am incredibly grateful for this. But as much as I love my husband and enjoy spending time with him, he can not completely fill my need for friendship - especially not in the area of female relationships (for obvious reasons). And while highly entertaining at times, my children aren't real great conversationalists at the moment. (Though their unsolicited hugs do my heart a great deal of good.)

Yet even after five months in a new city and a great deal of loneliness, I still sometimes have the mindset of, "I don't need new friends - I'm happy with the ones I've got, thanks." Which is a problem because those dear friends of mine live 800 miles away. And while we stay in contact regularly (thank you, technolgy), we can't really live our lives together any more. We can't watch our kids play together while we swap mommy war-stories. We can't meet up for coffee or have a much-needed girls night out.  We can't laugh ourselves to tears while playing Pictionary after a couple of home-made margaritas. We can't offer a hug when life is painful and words just aren't enough.

With memories such as these, it is hard to make the mental shift that I need to build new friendships here in Colorado. The fact that doing this is awkward and takes a lot of effort on my part isn't a great motivator, but I shouldn't allow it to be a deterrent either.

I have to remind myself that the girlfriends that I miss so much were once complete strangers to me. I once had to wiggle my way into their circle, into their routine. I was once "the new girl" to them. It took time to form the deep relationships that we have shared for so many years now.

Humans were designed to need each other, and there are some needs that can't be filled from 800 miles away. Despite how wonderful my girlfriends back home are, the need to build relationships here is a great one. And while there are still many lonely days, ever so slowly, I'm starting to see the buds of friendship grow in the handful of acquaintances that I've made here. While I long for the closeness I shared with my friends back home, I have to trust that similar depth will form with the relationships I'm building here. Until then, it will just be one introduction, one "hi, how are you?", one slightly awkward invitation to dinner at a time. Then one day, I'll look at those friends and marvel at the fact that we were once complete strangers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dishonest Motherhood

I almost wrote a really nasty post the other day. About my children. And I was actually planning on publishing it. On Mother's Day.

Yeah. Suffice to say, I was having a rough time with the whole motherhood thing.

It was one of those days when the only languages my 18-month-old twins seemed to know was Fusseese and Whinelish. The strain of being home with them all-day-every-day was about to result in a Jen-shaped hole straight through the front door. And I seriously considered the possibility that there might be some kind of conspiracy in place that was designed to trick women into reproducing. Because, I reasoned, surely if I have been made aware of how hard motherhood was going to be, I would have gotten myself sterilized years ago.

And while The Crazy inside me eventually cleared a bit (after a three-hour nap and a glorious hike through the woods), I still think part of my theory is true. The part about not knowing how hard being a mom was actually going to be because no one really told me.

There are days when I feel completely alone in my struggle with being a mom. Why is that? Is something broken in my mom heart? Do I not love my kids as much as other moms? I wonder sometimes when I read sugary-sweet descriptions of motherhood in books and blog posts. When moms recount for me the swell of unconditional love they felt the moment their child was placed in their arms and I just can't relate.

In all honestly, it took me a number of months to experience feelings of love towards my twins after they were born. It was just so incredibly hard to be a mom and no one had even mentioned to me that I might not feel the warm fuzzies and indescribable joy often associated with becoming a mother. What I did feel was indescribable exhaustion and inadequacy, and frankly I was shocked and frightened by the lack of affection I felt for my babies. I'd never had someone tell me that in those early months, those feelings were okay and - for some women - even normal.

I don't hate my kids - truly. I love their smiles and laughter, their emerging personalities and sense of humor. I love seeing the sparkle in their eyes when they understand something for the first time. I enjoy playing with them and helping them discover knew things. But most of the time, I can't relate to the poetic sentimentality that many moms use to describe motherhood. And when I really think about it (calmly, minus The Crazy), I don't think I'm broken or alone. I just think we moms don't share our struggles with the kind of transparency that communicates the deep doubts and difficulties of being a mom. We hear about the squooshy, mushy love (which is important to share certainly - I'm not saying we should constantly complain about our kids - there is a whole lot to love about them!). We'll share a crazy, funny story about the things our kids do or say, or that time they threw up all over the car on the way to a new friend's house. But rarely do we talk with each other about the really hard stuff.

Hard stuff like the loneliness of being home alone with children all day, or the guilt of not being able to be at home with them. The frustration over discipline, the feeling of wanting to run away, the strain of daily putting yourself aside for the benefit of someone else. And the doubts and pressures that come with the responsibility of raising a little human. Whether it's because of pride, lack of vulnerability, fear of judgment, or what-have-you, we don't talk much about the hard stuff and we end up feeling alone. And there is very little that is as debilitating as feeling alone. We suffer as a result and our children do too. All because we can't (or won't) share with honesty the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly of being a mom.

I'm not asking that women bemoan their role as mothers - it is a privilege and a gift to invest in and mold these little people that God has placed into our care. I'm simply asking that we be a little more honest with each other and ourselves about the struggle. Not with complaining or bitterness, but in a way that results in us encouraging one another. Letting other women know that, yeah motherhood is incredibly difficult at times, but you are not alone in those feeling. Let's not allow pride or fear of judgement keep us from being honest with each other. Let's allow transparency in so that loneliness and guilt fade, and (hopefully) joy and encouragement can start to take their place. This will make us better moms, not pretending we have it all together while we waste away inside. Motherhood is a great gift, but it can quickly become a burden if we feel we are alone in the struggle.

Because sometimes motherhood feels like this:

And other times if feels more like this: