Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Belles and Beaux Back in Brooklyn: Reflections on the Second Half of the Month

I'm really wanting to get back at my Weekly Happenings posts, but before I do that, I wanted to share my last little reflection post. Some of it I've already shared (mostly in my What I Learned post). Typically when I share something in those WIL posts, if it's going to occur elsewhere besides a Weekly Happenings post, I try to do those first and link to them. That totally makes more sense to me since the WIL is like a round up but it feels weird to blog about something if I've already listed it there. BUT, I wanted to have this post separate and so here it is....

One particular day, it was raining again but we had to get out.

I took, and shared so many bright, fun pictures on the trip. And there was nothing forced or fake about them; they were very true to our experience. But this trip was also been really, really hard. Moreso than I was prepared for. It felt like every behavior issue, every mental health struggle, every source of contention has been right at the surface. And it left me feeling a little bruised and raw. 

A friend I met up with that I haven't seen in a decade really affirmed me in acknowledging how hard something like this might be for a highly sensitive person with anxiety- to push myself so far out of my comfort zone. Her words meant so, so much and I've held them in my heart and returned to them over and over during the trip.

I know I beat this (these?) drums a lot, but people's lives aren't always what they appear- there's brokenness under the surface just about everywhere. There will be a time when that's not true and I have great hope for it, but it's not this time and it's imperative we acknowledge it. There is beauty and there is pain and often they are intertwined right in the same moment. This trip was certainly a microcosim of that.

And there are people who are firstly doing the work of paying attention and secondly taking the time to acknowledge the tension and encouraging the leaning in.

I'm glad we've had this time and I'm glad we have those friends.

And I'm glad there's sunshine and glad there's rain. They are both necessary for growth and we are the type creatures who don't notice the sunshine without the rain.

Third (and, most likely final) laundry day. As overwhelming as it was, there was so much good. In some ways, it felt eally similar to when we lived here. I was telling Minnie that some things feel a lot easier, some that I didn't expect. Like laundry. I was REALLY dreading it but it's actually been easier doing it at the laundry mat. The second week there, I did a week's worth of five people's clothes plus the sheets from both beds. I was there for a couple of hours but I got to read and be by myself and I folded a bunch while I was there. So it was two hours plus thirty minutes of folding and putting it up and making up the beds when I got back. I spend WAY more than two and a half hours a week on laundry at home. All three times I've fit everything I needed to take in our medium size suitcase. 

Another thing I was a bit terrified about was the housing. I didn't know what to expect. But I LOVED that we didn't have much stuff. I just didn't feel like I was constantly cleaning and picking up like at home. Our apartment felt small but the park across the street felt provisional. 

But other stuff was exhausting and anxiety inducing. Mainly transit, I guess. It still stresses me and taxes me mentally. Peyton actually apologized to me because one day he was wearing Sallie and was way ahead of us and started to get on a train and I had the two big kids. I was holding onto Graves but Annie was just beside me. If I hadn't basically pushed her on the train, I'm not sure she would have gotten on it. Those situations are easy to replay in my mind over and over and it's a hard won victory when I can get my mind to rest.

But weirdly,  in some senses I feel happier and healthier in NYC. I think it's that I get out(side) more and exercise more and that our stuff and our commitments are VERY streamlined.

P was like "you look cute this morning...you look kinda exhausted, too." We had some really, really good days but it still wasn't easy (more with logistical stuff and with the kids crashing and burning fifteen times each than with my own emotional state). Peyton and I somehow didn't read the fine print and the conference that was a big part of the reason we're in town now didn't have childcare like in years past. It's really more my thing and Peyton was SO generous to take care of the kids solo alot these past couple of days and I enjoyed enjoyed it more by myself that I thought I'd be able to. And all five of us got to go to the dinner/dancing/visiting portion the last night. I could tell I'd be a little sad to leave. Which felt comforting and familiar and would have broken my heart more if I didn't. 

Clearly MBird has been a huge tool God has used to help me "trace the rainbow through the rain" and at the conference weekend I've felt that so strongly. I know I'm in good company- I saw grown men I respect greatly weep over what God has done.

I had decided not to go back Saturday morning. But I realized Nicole Cliffe, co-founder of The Toast, was speaking. A friend and I used to message each other links and when I found out it was ending I felt pretty emotional about that, actually.

Another relevant factor is that Nicole was not a Christian until recently when "God messed up her happy atheist life", which, for obvious reasons, interests me. 

It was extremely comforting. She shared how people email her asking "how to convert atheists" and how she tells them that God's going to do it or it won't happen and how one sweet, sincere young man told her he had been debating atheists on Reddit and that wasn't working. She said she doesn't argue with unbelievers because frankly, the story IS nuts.

She said that what she did tell people is that she knew where to go when God began prompting her. She knew people who loved Jesus and loved her dearly and would be happy to talk. She said that when people tell you their deepest fears and doubts, work on your face and don't make this horrified expression like when Indiana Jones grabs the wrong chalice. I have no idea what that reference means but it resonated. Sometimes I get the impression that people- kind, well intentioned people- literally seem more distraught over Peyton's disbelief than if he had died. Which I GET and don't fault them for (it can actually an indication of how central faith is to them) but it's also...isolating.

It's hard for me to feel like people can/do understand. That is NOT anyone's fault. I was telling a friend that sometimes I feel more comfortable talking to my friends who have (for example) addiction issues or spouses with them because it's easier to relate. But as I've​ said, we all have areas of our lives where there is pain and brokeness.

This trip c ertainly had it's dark moments, but it also had an abundance of rainbows and while it's so counterintuitive in some ways there is where I feel safest.

Warm, breezy Saturday in Coney Island! This was Annie's special day in the city. In some ways, I think she's had the hardest time of all five of us on the trip. She's a creature of habit and a lover of routine. Many of my biggest flaws are her weaknesses- she can be inflexible and rigid and stubborn and entitled and she wants so desperately to be in control. But she's also really special and one of the most fascinating people I know. Quirks abound and I will always be grateful I get to know the intriguing little person she is. And ironically she also often reminds me what it is to be delighted by small, ordinary wonder. She told us today that her special day was better than she expected because she didn't know how fun the roller coaster would be, she didn't think we would let her take her shoes off and play in the sand, and she didn't realize that the F train would go above ground. I'm so glad our special girl had such a special day in a place so very special to us.  

One big component of the difficulty of this trip was that at home adjusting to three kids was a transition but it was it was not like this. In New York, one more child feels like an exponential increase rather than an additional one. We know a couple of families here that have three or more children so I know it's possible. But for us, I don't think it would have been sustainable. And honestly, I had the forsight to anticipate this would be the case. Even if we controlled all the other factors (grandparents, our yard, ect.), this was significant in and of itself. A large part of my motivation to move home was the desire for the baby who would be Sarah Lamar. This trip was a lot of things. My friend Lauren said it so sweetly "you guys will always have a place here and can move in and out of this community freely, but it's great this trip solidified what you knew- that home is in Mississippi right now". Several other friends have shared similar sentiments an P and I talked about it alot. I'm glad of two things: that there's room in my heart to *deeply* love two places and that it's very clear where our family will thrive the most right now. When we moved here, I had no idea that intense love was possible and when we moved home I had no idea that intense clarity was. Probably the biggest take away from the whole trip.

Saying goodbye to this old thing. I'm actually really glad the stroller broke. I've liked having Sallie in the carrier. It's just less to keep up with and I wasn't constantly going over "what could happen" if I like left her unattended in it for a split second in a museum. She was on one of us unless we were somewhere where she could crawl around and play. As I've mentioned, human trafficking is one of my biggest anxiety trigger currently and it was just so much better for my mental health to have her attached to myself or Peyton. I remember how much peace the Tula brought with Graves when we lived here and this had been very similar.

You win some, you lose some. I think we're losing on the minimalist front. We checked five items and are carrying on four backpacks (including Sallie's) and my purse.i was actually really glad it was an even ten to keep up with.
Just on the outside of her backpack, Annie has attached a regular sized Beanie Boo, a solar powered charger, a untensil set, a boxing glove keychain, a stuffed tooth from Coney Island, a braided bracelet, an Easter basket, and a purse. That's not even including things like the orange juice bottle full of peanuts and toothbrush in the outer mesh pockets. We are absurd.

AGAIN. Y'all know I kinda acted it was like a Corvette or something when Peyton bought me a minivan and I didn't think I could love the thing more, but if I never ride in an airplane again, it will be too soon.

Whew. We made it home. Thirteen hours from when we got to JFK that morning. I thought about it and with the time it took us to fly, we literally could have driven there andd back. Not to mention that it was way better overall this time but Atl to Jax was ROUGH. I literally feel so much worse ten minutes after getting off a plane than ten minutes after giving birth. The kids did REALLY well. I was way too hard on Graves, though. I was so patient with him when he cried twice about a hot dog and then his hands being sticky before we ever left New York but he threw Sallie's top to her sippy cup on the plane and I raised my voice. I felt terrible and told Peyton I might as well be these verbally abusive parents we saw on a video the other day. I was so flustered because I was taking him and Annie to the potty and he took forever and the light came on to get back to your seats and then the top and I just got overwhelmed. But overall, he was such a sport. Sallie didn't fuss at all until the last bit of the second flight (which was amazing because she didn't nap on either). But she was LOUD and spunky. That little bird can't stop chirping. All day, every day. She's a Herrington, alright. And Annie was SO sweet and wiped Sallie's "drooly" hands off herself with a wipey so she could play with her penguin. It was right when Sallie needed some help, too, at the end of the second flight.

I tried to let Peyton enjoy the flights since it's something I detest anyway. He watched a movie and I had all three kids on the row across from him and he visited a TON with his neighbors on both flights (so Peyton). This guy from some country I can't pronounce that's holding Friendly Little Sallie spoke several different languages but said he wished he lived somewhere like here where you only needed to learn one. He also had one two year old child but gave P a ton of parenting advice in a sort of paternalistic way but Peyton didn't mind at all (again so Peyton). I think some cultures just find this more acceptable. I don't want to generalize, but it reminds me of of super blunt Asian neighbor who ain't shy about telling me when I look like hell or the elderly black women at the co-op who were convinced I was dressing my children inappropriately for the weather and I was like "nah, I think the ankle length down coat you wearing when it's fifty degrees is what's inappropriate". It's actually refreshing, in one sense, for people to be so blunt and I really respect my friends here that are that way. The South is too often full of "sweet" people (especially women) who aren't actually kind.  

One of my favorite shots from the whole trip. Lots that I love, but this is near the top. I don't usually like pictures of myself and especially not candid ones, but this is one of my favorite pictures of myself ever. In one of my favorite cities on the planet, after one of my favorite events each year, with the head of my absolute favorite little boy in the world in my lap. New York, Mockingbird, and my snuggle buddy. It's what happiness looks like.  

I thought about it a lot and I think there's a lot we'll do differently next time:
1. drive
2. plan ahead more, especially with meeting other people
3. position ourselves where we can homeschool on the trip but do so in a low key way and not have to bring so much stuff/spend so much time on it (I'm at the point where I doubt we will ever just totally stop schooling for​ a month- Graves would forget ninety percent of what he's learned and Annie would be a monster trying to get her back adjusted after that long off). 

We also talked about just coming by ourselves next year but with three kids now I don't really think that's realistic (which prompted me to tell Peyton that if we can't leave them anyway, I think it just makes sense you add one or two more).

But it's been evident the kids really enjoyed being there and more than that, *I* want them to be children who have these experiences even if it costs us something. So, I realized we'd be taking Sallie anyway and dealing with playpens and car services if we flew and it seems dumb to come back without the big kids. Time will tell, but I wouldn't be totally shocked if we're doing this again next year with some little (big) adjustments.

I can only speak for myself, though. It's beyond hysterical to me that Peyton "missed his personal space" and was "ready to get back on a routine", I think on both counts more than his tightly wound wife and it's a touch ironic that I think I kind of ended up to be the one to love New York the most in general. To be fair to him, he's had more solo time with the kids here, which is the opposite of our dynamic at home. (He also suggested, at one point, that we buy the kids a new board game?!? Who are you? Where's my husband? Did we switch personalities?)

It was such a great trip overall, even amongst the hard moments, and such a learning experience for all of us! I'm so deeply grateful for my people and for this place.


Mallory Pickering said...

"The South is too often full of "sweet" people (especially women) who aren't actually kind." That's perfect.

Kareninaz said...

I agree, LOVE the above comment. I'm unsure if you're aware for next year, and driving youc an bring pack and play etc anyway, but I know at Disney you can rent strollers/pack and play etc so that would be an option to have less stuff in your vehicle?