2 parter: relationship philosophizing and Halloween

Part the First:

A couple of days ago, I had lunch with a friend and an interesting conversation (that was continued in another form with my nanny/friend when I got home) about habits and routine vs new experience in the context of a relationship.

The basic premise under consideration is that a relationship can over time be fatally drained of energy if too much time is spent in the habits and routines of the relationship. Our brains tend to notice disruption rather than sameness. New experiences can help you view your partner in a new light, or show you things you didn’t know about them before. But if you get swallowed up in routine, it’s easy to lose sight of the other person, to make all kinds of assumptions about who they are and what they’re capable of. It’s also altogether too easy to lose sight of oneself and one’s own capabilities.

Also, memories that don’t get accessed by deliberate or situational recall also get harder to find. You still have them, but they’re not always consciously available any more. And memory is one of the legs upon which relationships stand. So if memories get sunk deep under layers of routine and habit, you can lose important perspective and experience of the relationship.

The other side of the memory coin, though, is that in a long-term relationship of any sort that involves a reasonable level of what some might call nostalgia – the telling of tales from the relationship and shared experience – my access to my memories is supported and supplemented by my partner in that telling. That helps me stay in touch with my past, keep me connected to my life and helps me feel whole. Conversations I have with people with whom I have long-term history can be particularly impactful in terms of the insight, support, and understanding grounded in that history, and can offer possibilities for healing.

I have had very important conversations at times with ex-boyfriends, often but not always years after our romantic relationships were past, in which we could reach a level of compassion, with the generosity of loving understanding beyond what we were able to achieve in our prior context. We know each other so well with all that deep history, and after time and with intention that knowledge is enhanced by clarity. I am very grateful for those relationships and those conversations.

And on the other hand, too much newness, too much change or constant change can burn things up. Too much disruption from other influences or people can divert too much energy from the sustenance of the relationship, and starve it of what it needs. We need down time, processing time, time to think and feel. We need time to relax and to contemplate. And we all have limits on how much input we can take. Relationships do need our attention, and we have to have the mental and emotional bandwidth with which to give that attention and care to them if they are to survive and grow.

The bottom line is that we need both new experience and stability. We need connection. We need to remember to look for, or at least be open to what is possible in any given moment, regardless of the length of the relationship and its history. This helps counteract the weight of habit and the draining of energy.

Part the Second:
It is Halloween! We did, after all, go out trick-or-treating, but we weren’t sure if that was going to happen due to Hazel getting a pretty wicked fever yesterday. I think it’s the sickest I’ve seen her in the 5.5 years of her life. I took her to the doctor because I was hearing rails in her breathing and was worried about her lungs. They were clear, though, and so were her ears. So we went home with immune supports, and she alternately slept and watched “Pingu”, through the day, and then slept like a log last night.

“She did what?” I hear some of you saying. “She watched what?!” Yes, it’s true: I felt so bad for her that I decided on the spur of the moment and without consultation with Ted (he understood when I told him about it later) to let her watch a TV show. It’s something that our English friends the O family introduced us to (as we squirmed in discomfort, not knowing whether to hold our line or not) when we were there when Hazel was 4 years old. It is, I must say, pretty wholesome stuff, and since Ted and I had both seen it I decided to go for it. It will remain off-limits except when she’s sick, which will help it retain its magic attraction for her.

Last night her fever broke, and she continued gaining energy today, so we decided a trek around our block wouldn’t hurt. The kids were a tiger, a lion, and a house cat. I wore mouse ears. The kids shared a basket, and when we got home each person ate one piece of candy. We counted it all, and are going to let them exchange it for other things they want. I am hopeful that this will turn out to be a good system. If they really, really want their candy any given year they can have it (one piece per year of age); but they’ll have the option of swapping it out for much better things, too.

And, as always, it was so much fun to see friends and neighbors dressed up, to see all the costumes, and the smiles on kids and adults’ faces. I do love Halloween. I love seeing people wandering around as characters and animals, displaying whimsy and creativity, having fun.

new computer, balancing work and family, pumpkins

My computer died last night, and I am typing this on the new Surface I got today. My computer was 6 years old, which is getting up there in technological terms, and I’d been thinking for a while about replacing it with something lighter, easier to transport. We’ll probably also buy a big screen on which I can do photo editing, but possibly not this month, or this year, what with all the bug-related expenses we’re currently experiencing.

The keyboard is off-gassing, which is annoying me. I think I’ll have to put it outside to let it do that more effectively tonight. I am enjoying the touch screen, and will enjoy using the Surface for movie watching on flights, I am sure. It will also be nice to have on device on which I can do all of my computer-related activity, instead of having a writing laptop and having to make sure everything is synced. I will miss my other laptop, though, despite its heft. I find technology changes somewhat stressful.

Ted and I had a good conversation last night about scheduling, and how to make it possible for him to spend more time at work without sacrificing family life or my professional life. It’s challenging. His commute, now that we’ve really looked at it, is 45 minutes in the morning door-to-door, and an hour to an hour and a half in the evening. That is a huge amount of time to be in transit, even if some of it is walking to and from the shuttle. Given that he works during the day and I work some during the day and then in the evening, our daily schedule is squeezed in a number of ways that make it pretty hard to find a good balance. We did come up with a pretty good solution that gives him 7 more hours a week at work. It will require me to get up earlier (which is hard, given that I work in the evenings), but not every single day. It will mean that I’m bundling all three kids out the door in the morning to get Hazel to kindergarten, but three out of five days; Ted will do the other two. So, for the next few days I’m going to make a strong effort to move my wakeup time a half hour earlier so my body can get used to it, and then next week we’ll start the new routine. This is good for me in the long run, I posit. 🙂

Today was a really beautiful day. This afternoon I piled the kids into the car and we went to buy pumpkins. We got one for each of us, and when we got home we sat outside at our picnic table and drew on four of them with dry-erase markers. I think tomorrow evening will be pumpkin carving. In the meantime, we enjoyed the mild weather, drew pictures for each other, petted the cats who came to visit, and said hello to the neighbors when they came by. Hazel taught me how to draw a rooster using the outline of my hand. Her dad taught her, and she passed it along. It is a novel and marvelous experience to be taught something by my 5.5-year-old. She has taught me Spanish words and songs before, but it was rather wonderful to hear her instruct me, and then reach over and move my hand just so.

Earlier this evening, Ted put a roast in the oven with potatoes and onions. It is smelling quite delicious. I am so happy that we share the cooking!

And now, more Mozart, Bach, and Hodge. Time to practice!

time bonanza, will-power, cello practice

It just so happened that all but the first of tonight’s students cancelled. So here I am with a chunk of time to myself, as Ted and the kids are at the store for the weekly grocery shop. What to do with the time off? Well, first I’m making pumpkin custard (currently baking in the oven), and then I’m going to practice. Well, first I’m writing a blog post. Obviously. Having read some about will power and the power of habits, though, I am going to try an experiment. Here I am on my computer. It would be oh-so-easy to still be browsing, typing, and reading away when the rest of my family gets home, and there would go my practice time.

So, instead of having a low-level, guilt-induced sub-rosa level of will-power rumbling away the whole time I’m on the computer, I have decided that at 7:05, in 15 minutes, I am going to close up the computer, grab my keys, and go downstairs to practice. That way, I only have to goose my metaphorical butt once, and I will enjoy what I’m doing more. And now that I’ve typed it into my blog, I have to do it, right? Thank you, blog audience, for helping me to stay honest.

Uh-oh, I’ve used up two more of my minutes. 🙂

I’ve finished fingering all but half of the last page of the Mozart Symphony we’re doing (No. 35, the “Haffner”), and I can get it done tonight, plus work on the rest of our repertoire for this concert.

Then the family will get home; there will be piano practice, bedtime for the kids, cooking, etc. I am glad for this window in which I can listen to music, make yummy treats, and anticipate more productive activity later on.

balancing relationship and family needs; meditation class, punctuality, rehearsal

Today Ted and I tried to combine family time with conversation between the two of us. I am not sure how successful we were. The conversation was so interrupted it became very long and drawn out, and thus the kids felt they weren’t getting enough attention, and interrupted us, ad infinitum. It’s an issue partly because I work in the evening and he works during the day, and there is often a miniscule amount of time when we have the opportunity for conversation of whatever nature. I think that what we might need to do is tell the kids, “Ok, we’re going into the other room. Here is the timer. We’re going to come back in 15 minutes, when the timer goes off.” And then talk fast and be as efficient as possible. And then stick to the timer so the kids know they can trust it and us.

We had a mediation class tonight that went considerably over, and from which I really didn’t feel it was possible to depart in any way that was respectful to the group. But I had a rehearsal after it, and we had to get back for our babysitter, so both Ted and I experienced a fair amount of stress in the latter part of the class, worrying that we weren’t going to make it back on time (we didn’t). Even at that moment, I was, on some level, internally amused by the contrast between the worry I was experiencing personally about being late for my rehearsal with the peace and centering that was being cultivated in the class. I was about 15 minutes late in the end, but am usually punctual, so in balance it’s fine. But ironically, I was late for our last rehearsal, too, because I had been left off an email regarding a change of venue for that rehearsal. Next time, come hell or high water, I hope fervently to be on time!

Rehearsal was good.

further birthday celebrations, Halloween party, bowling

Today was another day of birthday celebrations.

We started off with brunch with friends and family. Conversation ranged from jobs to tattoos, to the kids and what they’re up to, to music and education, and on. Ted very kindly took the kids outside when they got hyper so I could hang out with my sister and friends, but various other people took turns going outside with them too. Hazel got a ride around the block on A’s shoulders, which puts her up very high in the sky indeed.

This afternoon I took Hazel to a costume store expecting to buy her a kitty costume, but there weren’t any. So we bought a few different animal ear headbands to share with her sisters. Then we headed off to her friend S’s Haunted House party, where she wore the bunny ears, ate tons of off-wagon food, ran around shrieking, and had a fantastic time. She also asked if she could hold S’s 4-month-old little brother, which she did happily for quite a long time.

Once we got back, we planned and strategized with our babysitter, talking about ways she might more successfully get the kids down tonight (her second try). I suggested that she have Hazel stay downstairs while she put the twins down in their bedroom, so as to keep things simpler. Last week when Hazel helped it was sweet, but meant that she kept the twins excited and up for longer. We had a good conversation in which we established our parameters but left it up to her. And, as it turned out, it went well. There was crying, but it didn’t take her too long to get the twins to stay in their beds, and then to calm down, and then to sleep. Hazel was asleep by the time H got downstairs, and Ted just carried her up.

Then we headed off to go bowling with friends. I haven’t been bowling in a decade or so, I think. I was better this time than last, though my friends A and S were definitely better still. I think it’s funny how bowling looks like it should be so simple, and then it’s not. Regardless, it is tons of fun, and a good way to celebrate. I hadn’t met my friend S’s girlfriend yet, so we shared stories and started to get acquainted. It was nice to spend some time doing something fun with Ted, too. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had the time to do that. I’m glad we’ve gotten back to having some childcare so we can go out. It’s very good to do that.

A full day, and a fun one. And another full year to contemplate, celebrate, and be thankful for.

My birthday, friends

Today Ted took the day off so I could have time to myself on my birthday. That enabled me to have a few productive practice sessions, time to read, time to catch up on business, time to respond to well-wishes on Facebook, and time to go to the spa with friends in the evening. That was a marvelous gift.

I also got to hold my three kids at different points of the day, and to do some piano practice with Hazel (we did some more improve together at the end).

Lately Emily has taken to coming over, leaning her body onto me, putting her head into my lap if I’m sitting down, or hugging my legs if I’m standing, and saying, “Mama” in such a happy and loving tone. And when Joanna first sees me in the morning, she gives me the most delighted smile, and a, “Mama” in greeting. Hazel still runs to me, “Mommy, mommy!” Today she couldn’t wait to show me the bat she’d made in art class (which, sadly, scared Emily, so we had to put it up for the time being). That is such a special love.

The three women with whom I shared the spa evening are parenting friends, whom I met when Hazel was three weeks old. It was beyond fantastic to spend a few hours with them, to talk about kids, jobs, childcare, relationships, history, etc. I felt my mind and heart stretch and flex in the environment of adult friends, hot water, and no fixed time at which I had to leave. Lying in the sand room at the spa (a heated dry room with a wave machine and a flooring composed of sand under linen), I felt the muscles in my face relax, my body gradually relax into the floor beneath me. At the end, I thought, I am 46 years old, and I birthed two babies two and a half years ago. I am grateful.

I am happy to have different friend circles, people with whom I can share the delights and challenges of parenting; people with whom I can appreciate, share, and make music; people with whom I can write, share critiques and mutual support; and people with whom I have such deep history, who have known me for such significant parts of my life.

I am so grateful for my circles of love and friendship, for my communities.

I am grateful to be alive.

Pestilence and rule-breaking

Oh man. Today = discovering lice (which had, terribly unfortunately, been around for a long time, as we found out) and getting it treated. All of our heads, including Ted’s which doesn’t have that much of a natural habitat for them. I hope that their promise of being lice-free will turn out to be accurate. It did take a long time, and they were exceptionally thorough, which we appreciated, but Joanna definitely did not, poor little person.

Also, today = figuring out that the bites I’ve been itching aren’t from fleas from the cats, but are, even more unfortunately, from bed bugs. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW We have calls into various companies and are anxiously awaiting calls back, so we can destroy the bed bugs (as Ted said, “The only good bed bug is a dead bed bug.”) ASAP

So, today was also a massive day of breaking rules. Candy, TV (cartoons at the lice place), pancakes, ice cream, French fries. Yeah. Ted and I laughed while eating the last two items this evening, that the us from when Hazel was a baby would have looked over and been a bit horrified if another family was feeding its kids ice cream and French fries. I guess that’s the natural progression, though: the mighty fall from the position of authority claimed while childless, to the slightly less lofty position based in early parenthood, to the degeneration driven by desperation.

And it’s all ok.

Now the kids are in (their sanitized) beds, the cats are fed, and we’re going to go collapse into our bed and watch a TV show ourselves before we go to sleep.

Let’s hear it for the bedbug company calling back tomorrow morning early!!