All day I was thinking of the post I wrote last Valentine's day. As it turns out, that post was written on my parents' anniversary, not Valentine's day. What I wrote, essentially, was that I was a blessed to be the child of a loving couple, and now blessed as an adult to be the mother and wife in our loving little family. I was thinking about it because it's Valentine's day, but the truth is, now I think about it every day.
I don't think blessings frequently come up in casual thought. In my experience, mindfulness is required, or some sort of triggering reminder. For a long time I was so immersed in my family life, with hardly any life outside it, and like many I have trouble seeing past the end of my own nose. It's hard to remember to be thankful for what constantly surrounds us, when the blessings themselves (and all their complications) become our ambiance. Sometimes you have to get distance. And that's just what I've got.
I've been working for a month now. My job is to monitor and manage the government subsidies for children within a non-profit childcare program. They account for the minority of families in the program, but they are a sizable minority. And just as I took the helm (which looked more like clamboring up a rope onto the deck and falling on my face) all hell broke loose. It's been quite an experience. I've been learning some very specialized information, held almost exclusively by my predecessor; some other specialized information shared by my two generous and lovely colleagues; and some not so specialized, or not directly applicable information from everyone else. The bit where I just figure out how to get through the day has been quite challenging. But the bit where I hear stories from families about what they've been through, what they're going through; the bit where I learn that over 5,000 families have just lost the childcare subsidies they rely on to maintain jobs and survive, is the real challenge.
I smite myself when I encounter a parent who wasn't willing to jump through the hoops to ensure their child care, and then points the finger at someone else. Initially, I felt pretty black and white about people filing their paperwork and making their payments. But the more stories I hear, the more forgiving I feel. This afternoon I told a woman I would cut her more slack than was warranted. I used the word "forgive." And I suddenly realized that was exactly what I was doing. I could see that she was doing her best to play the really terrible hand she had been dealt. She was surviving; she was doing what it took to take care of her children. How lucky I am, I thought, my GOD! How lucky. It is hard, so damn, unbelievably hard, to carry a child, to give birth, to survive the post-partum months, to care for the one you would do anything to protect, to care for yourself. That was my experience, and I had a loving, supportive husband, loving supportive parents, AND parents-in-law. I had maternity leave, I had insurance, I had a nice place to live and food to eat. I had Plenty. And it was hard. Wonderful, but hard. There are women out there with none of these things. No income, no partner, no family, no food, no rent. Or worse, with abusive partners and parents, with impossible habits to kick, with no education or job prospects. And they've still got their babies to love, and their bodies to heal. It's one thing to know they're out there. But now, I've met them. And it has utterly changed my life.
I drove home from work a little early today--we've all been sick and I had an appointment with my naturopath. I was thinking about love, and about Valentine's day. I've always been a sucker and a champion for romantic love. With a two year old, it's been a while since my husband and I were able to go out and dine like we used to do on romantic occasions. And I certainly adore him, and feel lucky to be his bride. But I really felt today was about LOVE for me, love beyond the realm of romance, and into the realm of Jesus' second most important commandment, that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I must disclaim--I am not a theologian, and maybe not even a Christian. And I find the phrase "love thyself" difficult to contemplate and hard to swallow, as do many people. But I think what it's really all about is getting over yourself and forgiving others for being as imperfect as you are. (Getting too cheesy for you? Don't worry, I'm almost done.) And that's what I thought of when I hung up the phone with that mother today. That's what I thought about when another mother hugged me as she left the office. If I were in your boat, sister, maybe I'd do just the same. And in some ways, we're all in the same boat. Sharing motherhood makes it easier for me to see, but it's not about motherhood. It's everything, it's everywhere, it's everyone.
So here I am, one month in, and one month away from my life as a full time mom. It's still hard to think about what I'm missing by not being with Jane. But I know it's good for all of us. And I know I'm doing good. I've never worked so hard, for so little, and felt so very good about it. I had no idea where I was going, but I'm glad I'm here. And now that I'm here, I would like to ask you for help, dear reader. I have no real experience with case management or counseling. Although I am in "accounting," a good portion of what I do is listening, talking, advocating. It's hard to bear up under the sadness I feel sometimes. It's getting better, but if you can recommend any books, any blogs, any resources or words that come to mind, I would be grateful.
With all my heart, I wish you love, forgiveness, and togetherness. And I send my gratitude to the universe for the love I have been so fortunate to share in my lifetime so far. More please!!!
Happy Valentine's Day