At this billet, Andy has predictable and stable hours. He is not required to work weekends. There is even some flexibility in his schedule that allows him to make important kid functions for the first time ever. Here, he can be an active husband, parent, and a Marine. Whereas before, in all of our other tours, his work was so intensive that all of his time had been spoken for by the Marine Corps. Not that different from many civilian jobs as I understand it. I swear America does it the hard way. We are a strong nation with wide shoulders because of it but it is definitely the hard way.
The kids are flourishing here. Both love their schools, enjoy extra-curricular activities and have made good friends in the neighborhood to play with which is novel for them. Before we were motoring to parks to get in a play date with friends before fighting an hour's drive through traffic back home.
While I haven't taken advantage of the Cajun music or food scene much, I am thriving here too.
With more support from Andy on the home front, my time is becoming less frenetic. I no longer feel so anxious and alone. Yes there are still uni-lateral decisions, solo trips the pediatrician's, and single parenting schleps to a parent-teacher conference (with an over-tired sibling in tow) but they have lost their weight. My body is not heavy with the knowledge I must get up and do it all over again alone for months on end. A new scaffolding exists. A happy family hammock.
For the first time in several years, we are in place where we can all refuel.
I am filling up my tank that I depleted so much there were cracks in its foundation. Large, scissoring, wicked cracks. Nobody but me is responsible for dehydrating my tank so badly. It was a case of good intentions, fractured exhaustion, and striving for an unrealistic standard I created myself. Not one of my friends would've cared if they sat in a dusting of dog hair on my couch. Every single one of them would've come over to make my kids dinner while I went upstairs to fall into a
That tank might've lasted longer if I forced more naps and attended fewer volunteer opportunities; cared less about seeming strong than being rested. That tank would've teetered above E if I would've been kinder to myself and let the clean laundry live in the baskets or serve the kids a curb-side IHOP dinner on Fridays. Nobody but me kept that bar up so damn high.
Ah, but we all have the magic hindsight, don't we?
Luckily, that phase of our life has come and gone and the kids are growing up. Now that Grayson is at school full time, he requires less direction from me during daytime hours. He is largely self-sufficient with his morning own care and has become uber responsible about due dates and his homework at night. We hope this trajectory continues and vaporizes into Abby's mind when it's her turn.
Abby is going to school every day too but only for 4 hours. She is largely the reason I don't need a gym membership. We never stop moving. Abby is a one-person Cirque du Soleil, The Musical. Because of her age, she leans heavily on me for her personal care and entertainment before and after school. Most of the time I can hang and come up with fun things but there are minutes when I am 40 and must tap out. That's when she is parked her in front of Curious George so I can detox from socializing (yes, socializing even with her wears me out. "It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.")
Those detox minutes are precious. They are standing at a quiet pump, refueling an empty tank leftover from gritty years in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Good years but lacking wisdom or grace.
My default detox is grabbing the camera and heading to the duck pond. I turn, squat, lean, and bend to align myself with the sun to make a pretty glow. Trying to capture what is only there for a momentary stretch. Nikon Yoga.
Another creative tank is guitar. While I still really suck at it and probably never will be able to play more than Jewel's Morning Song, practicing reminds me growth often comes from pain. The strings physically hurt, my fingers stretch beyond their wildest dreams, and my voice struggles to climb around a harmony. G chord Therapy.
Finally and maybe the most addictive tank has been advocating for death row animals. Every free moment brings a chance to sign online and crosspost a sentient life that doesn't stand a chance without it. Just by sharing, this pet will have up to thousands more people looking at it and becoming aware of its plight. There can be no empathy without awareness. The beauty of social networking is that it can be utilized for posting a pic of your Girls' Night Out martini and posting a pet in NYC to be seen across the globe in a matter of seconds...very crucial, life altering seconds. To me, it's the best use of networking there is. Dogmatic Truth.
Did my empty tank require a move to Louisiana? No. I could've done all of this back in our old place but something about starting over helped me do the same.
It's good to be filling back up the old me. I've missed patience, a surplus of affection, and time to give myself. Yes, myself. When we are strung out and barely hanging by a thread, we don't stop. The only reason we are still able to give to others is because we are leaching it from ourselves. We deplete our own tank. Our kids don't take it without our permission, our partners don't rob us blind in the dark, our parents and/or friends don't strip of energy until we let them. We push ourselves, cover up fatigue, drag along a weary body that just wants to go to a spa for 60 million hours.
I don't know what it was for me: this far away move, a death of a beloved one, a click of the psyche. But I feel we all get there eventually. We land ourselves in a place - both figuratively and literally - that allows us to slow down, refocus and refuel. A cracked foundation leads to erosion of the entire property. And my property was beginning to recede into the ocean.
My tank isn't full yet and might not ever be but that's ok. We live in the south now. There is nobody hurrying me along. I can sit here with the car off and the windows down for as long as it takes.