Finding stability and learning to coast

I recently loaned my copy of Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelly Rowley to a friend. As I packed it up to take with me, I took a moment to thumb through and read the passages I had underlined and made notes on for the Motherese book club. I came across this passage:

This is how happiness comes-in small moments, in fierce flashes. It’s not a state of being, not remotely permanent.

I nodded and sighed at the truth of it. I’ve written before about my relationship with random clarity, fleeting moments of overwhelming calmness and the sense that all is right and as it should be. They are my happy times. But more than that, they illustrate my desire for complete acceptance with my life.

Life for me is never static. For some reason I live on a roller coaster of emotions and events that keep me from catching my breath. Some of this is self-inflicted, but much is beyond my control. As I grow older and weary of the constant fluctuations, I long for a period of stability and the opportunity to just coast.
.
Over the weekend I had dinner with one of my closest girlfriends. We have both been so busy that we hadn’t seen each other in what seemed like weeks.  I had so much to talk about. She, thankfully, let me rattle on. For more than three hours I chattered away about all the things that have been happening. I hardly came up for air. At the end of our evening she told me, “Too much. This is too much. You need to just slow it down for a while.”

She’s right. I’m weary, torn, and run ragged as I’m pulled in too many directions. It’s making me emotional again. This afternoon as I gear up for my return to work and a crazy week of commuting, working and coping I cried. It’s too much and it’s making me sick. Once again my heart is racing to keep up and the panic is taking over. I can’t keep up.

Because of this madness, I lose sight of the happy moments. They become more temporary, less frequent. In my rush to keep up, I’m forgetting what really matters. My children, my family and me.

It’s been a particularly stressful summer. My extended family is facing some difficult struggles. Some we’ve been through before, some that are new and scary. Work is challenging for reasons I can’t discuss here. My boys are busy and overwhelming as boys tend to be. I haven’t had control of my domestic responsibilities in ages. And I miss my husband. He’s here of course, but our lives are so busy we hardly get to talk and connect.

How did I get here? Only a couple of months ago, I was radiating. But here I am again. It snuck up on me and I feel as though I have more swimming to do than ever before to reach my surface. The feeling of being submerged in a sea of responsibility and never catching a breath that I thought I had learned to keep it at bay is back. In the chaos, I’ve lost the perspective that I gained through the spring.

I realize now that it requires constant vigilance to maintain one’s equilibrium, to keep focused on being healthy. You can never let up, it takes work to stay happy. I also realize that it’s time to ask the hard questions and to really prioritize and embrace change. My week of vacation at least offered me that perspective. For that I’m grateful. I’m certain now of what I have to do.

Image: Formel 1 – Nürburgring 2009 – Ring+Racer via a Creative Commons license.

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30 thoughts on “Finding stability and learning to coast

  1. Cathy says:

    For me as a working mom too, when things are not good at work, it seems to magnify all my other stressors.

  2. Blissed-Out Grandma says:

    I may have told you before that my workplace went from difficult to toxic. I was looking for a new jog when they fired my boss and things got much better. But to grandkid daycare I cut my hours and traded supervisory responsibilities for straight writing and editing. Not everyone can do that, but my employer has allowed a lot of people to cut hours for personal reasons. It always starts out as "temporary" and it always goes on for years. 🙂

  3. Alex@LateEnough says:

    I'm great at charging right past balance and into the other extreme. I was just thinking last week that I had found this great rhythm with my writing, blogging, children, husband, friends, and everything else. It turns out I had found a week. A single week. Maybe two of this balance. And then life came again. Oh well. Maybe the crazed feeling will also be a week or two.

  4. Lindsey says:

    Oh, Christine, this resonates so strongly with me. As I get older I find myself less and less able to cope with the ups and downs, and wishing more and more that I was a more stable person. Alas, wishing won't make it so. Still, I do find such solace in words like yours that make me feel not alone, that there are other travelers out there walking beside me. Thank you. xo

  5. ayala says:

    Life is a rollercoater. It feels like there is too much stress and not enough time for you to find peace. I hope you feel better soon!

  6. ShannonL says:

    You're right, it *does* take work to stay happy. We often forget that and then go through this roller coaster ride that you describe.I'm really glad you've found some clarity. Keep listening to yourself and you'll do what's best. And keep talking through it. You'll get there again. Sounds like you're already on your way! Miss you!

  7. Kate says:

    I have never sought drama, but it feels like things get more overwhelming as the years go by. Yes, there are more responsibilities, but it's more then that. Nothing ever happens by itself. Things calm down, but then the wind picks up and the waves get taller and I can't stay above the water. I understand too well, and hope you find even the glimpses of calm.

  8. Linda Myers says:

    I've so been where you are. Now that I'm not working, I have way more time for calmness. But I still don't claim it! Instead, I ponder, and then I stew, and then I wonder why I'm not as busy as I think I should be.For Pete's sake!Hope your balance returns quickly.

  9. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I can so relate. Trying to keep up, do everything, be everywhere. Not missing any events, gatherings, groups. Keeping on top of the house, the shopping, everyone's schedules and lives. It pulls you down, feels like you are drowning. Even when most of the things that fill up the days are filled with people I love and want to spend time with. But it gets to be too much, and I feel like I'm drowning. In fact, my favorite days of the week are when we have nothing, or very little to do. Just being at home, with the family. Those are my happiest days. But yes, it's a constant struggle to be in this happy place. I think it's a good thing that we remember to return to it, when life gets out of control.

  10. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I can so relate. Trying to keep up, do everything, be everywhere. Not missing any events, gatherings, groups. Keeping on top of the house, the shopping, everyone's schedules and lives. It pulls you down, feels like you are drowning. Even when most of the things that fill up the days are filled with people I love and want to spend time with. But it gets to be too much, and I feel like I'm drowning. In fact, my favorite days of the week are when we have nothing, or very little to do. Just being at home, with the family. Those are my happiest days. But yes, it's a constant struggle to be in this happy place. I think it's a good thing that we remember to return to it, when life gets out of control.

  11. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I can so relate. Trying to keep up, do everything, be everywhere. Not missing any events, gatherings, groups. Keeping on top of the house, the shopping, everyone's schedules and lives. It pulls you down, feels like you are drowning. Even when most of the things that fill up the days are filled with people I love and want to spend time with. But it gets to be too much, and I feel like I'm drowning. In fact, my favorite days of the week are when we have nothing, or very little to do. Just being at home, with the family. Those are my happiest days. But yes, it's a constant struggle to be in this happy place. I think it's a good thing that we remember to return to it, when life gets out of control.

  12. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I can so relate. Trying to keep up, do everything, be everywhere. Not missing any events, gatherings, groups. Keeping on top of the house, the shopping, everyone's schedules and lives. It pulls you down, feels like you are drowning. Even when most of the things that fill up the days are filled with people I love and want to spend time with. But it gets to be too much, and I feel like I'm drowning. In fact, my favorite days of the week are when we have nothing, or very little to do. Just being at home, with the family. Those are my happiest days. But yes, it's a constant struggle to be in this happy place. I think it's a good thing that we remember to return to it, when life gets out of control.

  13. Kelly says:

    I think the radiating moments are balanced by the overwhelming ones. We get through the muck and shine like the sun, right before we descend back into the muck. It sounds exhaustive and frustrating, but really it's life playing out the mantra "this, too, shall pass." We have to learn to hunker down to ride out the crappy days so we can feel how amazing it is to stand strong and proud on the radiating days. Right?

  14. Theta Mom says:

    Life is never static for me either and I think we all run through those emotional ups and downs – and now that you are back in the "routine" of work/school with the summer a distant memory, it takes a little while for everyone to adjust…great post!

  15. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities says:

    It means so much that my words in LAY played some part in inspiring this wonderful, and raw post. I do believe that we must cherish the happy moments, the stints of random clarity, when they arrive. The mere fact that these moments are not permanent makes them that much more magical in my opinion.May we all have many happy moments 🙂

  16. becca says:

    As we've all discussed before, our moments of confusion and feeling overwhelmed let us appreciate the moments of radiating that much more. go with the flow. You will get through these times stronger and most likely quicker than you have in the past because you KNOW it's possible to BE happy. I miss you and wish I could be there to give you a hug… xo

  17. Nicki says:

    I was struck by these two sentences: "I realize now that it requires constant vigilance to maintain one's equilibrium, to keep focused on being healthy. You can never let up, it takes work to stay happy." They seem to ring so true. Yet, I think we all forget them as we rush from work to family to domestic duties to carpool to sleep to work….etc. I have decided, as I read your words, I need to start scheduling some happy time. Gonna get working on Sept right now!!!

  18. Aging Mommy says:

    Your last paragraph Christine sums up everything I was about to say to you. I disagree with that quote about happiness only being a fleeting moment here and there. I believe true happiness is a deep rooted sense of well being reflected by those joyous moments but yet always present and underlying everything. But it does indeed take a lot of hard work to get there. It takes a lot of time and effort, it requires us to stand back and look at the bigger picture, prioritize and figure out what is really important and what is not. Good luck.

  19. TKW says:

    Yes, I know how easy it is to lose sight of the good things–the flashes–when you feel like you're buried under the minutiae of daily life. The duties. The drek.((you))

  20. Elizabeth says:

    I get this, Christine. You're going to get to a place, though, when you look back at this and see how much more stable of a place you have come to. I hope that happens for you soon.

  21. harriet glynn says:

    Just reading that stressed me out. I probably operate at 25% of what you do and I find it all overwhelming. My husband and I both know we can't handle too much so we are both working part time this fall so we can spend some time with Theo while he's young. We both had all summer off and I am happy to say we witnessed him talking his first steps and then over the following weeks go from tenative to full blown running. I found it thrilling to witness.That all said, I look forward to some adult time when I go back to work but I know myself well enough to realize I need to keep it as simple as possible.

  22. Rudri says:

    Sending you hugs Christine. It does take effort to try to navigate emotions that we feel. What gives me comfort is the knowledge that every feeling is temporary. (at least I am keenly aware of this when times are particular trying).

  23. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point says:

    Hi Christine,I think happiness doesn't need to be limited to the flashes of happy moments. I really think it's possible to be happier, just as it's possible to be less happy. For me, it involves a constant letting go of things I can't control. I can control some things, but not nearly as much as I'd like. Once I accept the things I can't control (from little things like messes in every room caused by others, to bigger things like a sudden and unexpected change), I'm more apt to take action to acclimate and thus, become a little bit happier.

  24. Pam says:

    I think your friend is right – you are doing "too much." What can you do to "slow things down?" I hope you find some sense of calm soon.

  25. Justine says:

    I don't think I can say anything here that others haven't before me. I hope you will find the balance you need Christine – as a fellow working mother and someone who has to deal with family issues, I can completely relate. Yes, our situations are different, but our goals are the same. To be the best mother and partner we can be, and to be there for and with our family in the little time we have with one another, and to appreciate the life that we have despite everything that's happening in and out of our control.Some days are harder than others. And this is one of them. But it isn't always going to be this way, Christine. I can promise you that. Hugs to you my friend.

  26. Amber says:

    Oh, Christine, you are having a rough time. I do not commute to work, rather I work at home baby-sitting. While it's not traditional work, I find myself aching for balance. I watch kids during the day, my husband works at night, and we do not get that communication that is so necessary as a couple. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that I can work to help pay bills, but there are many things I am struggling with.Some thing I am learning is that I must have a night out with my husband. I mean must. He is my life jacket. If you can (and I'm not saying this as a command), try and line up a baby-sitter and go to a restaurant with your husband. I know how expensive baby-sitters are, so if you have any friends in the area with (or without) children, try swapping a night with them. Although, if you can't just ignore this comment.

  27. Jen says:

    Christine, I feel this. I really do. And you write so beautifully. Know that I am thinking of you. That I am empathetic. That you are not alone.

  28. BigLittleWolf says:

    Christine, the "I can't keep up moments" are many, and as you eloquently describe, we are left longing for brief periods in which we might coast, and a recognition that there are moments of happiness we're not able to appreciate as the panic overwhelms us.I believe strongly that there are millions of us across this country who feel this way. Women. Whether we are SAHMs, those who are juggling work outside the home as well as parenting, those of us who are single moms and solo moms – and regardless of our age.Few are the women with children who don't feel these things constantly. Especially in our culture where time off after babies is limited, where there is no "safety net" should your marriage end or your paying job (or both), and vacation time (if you're lucky) is 2 weeks / year. Hardly enough to begin to unwind, much less to refill the well. There is some solace in this great, faceless meeting place, but it isn't sufficient. I don't know what the answer is, but these are women's issues and we, as women, must somehow deal with them. They're not going away. And male-dominated political and economic institutions are certainly not going to help us.

  29. Capital Mom says:

    Find a moment and focus on that. It will make you happy, if only for a moment.

  30. Chantal says:

    I needed to read this post today. Today of all days. As the summer is coming to an end and I am questioning how I spent it with my boys. Was it quality, did I rush it. Did I enjoy it at all. I also need to work at being happy. Its hard work at the moment, there is so much going on.

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