I’m reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert again. I really enjoyed this book the first time I read it, during The Great Depression of 2009. Back then, reading this was the perfect escape, a vicarious journey of healing. Now, rather than feeling her pain, I’m relating to Gilbert’s restlessness and quest for answers and purpose. Towards the beginning of the book (on page 24, to be specific), Gilbert writes:
I was actually feeling kind of delighted about all the compartments of time and space that were appearing in my days, during which I could ask myself the radical new question: “What do you want to do, Liz?”Most of the time...I didn’t even dare to answer the question, but just thrilled privately to its existence. And when I finally started to answer, I did so cautiously. I would only allow myself to express little baby-step wants. Like:I want to go to Yoga class.I want to leave this party early, so I can go home and read a novel.I want to buy myself a new pencil box.
I love this book so much, I want to marry it. Polyandrously.* This book/section has encouraged me to think through my own baby-step wants, which I’m starting to feel the effects of neglecting after having been distracted from them for a little too long. Toddlers are distractingly-hard work. I’ve found the last few weeks particularly tough, each day feeling very much like an emotional rollercoaster, from snuggly highs - reading books, playing pretend and exchanging giant smiles - to frustrated lows - trying to react sweetly to being whacked in the head with surprisingly painful toys, being yelled at often, having to use all of my sleepy brainpower to work out what the hell “baing” means this time around. My son is a Lamborghini-child: he can go from gorgeous to awful in 2.9 seconds. Regularly throughout the day I can be heard saying things like, “My darling, you’re so adorabOWWWWWWW!” or “I love you so mmmMOSES, STOP NOW.”
It’s exhausting and difficult and has started to feel unsustainable, so, now that I’m done with all the crying, I’m ready for action. My friend Karen went through a similar process recently and I really should have learned more from her journey, but I was too busy packing and moving and unpacking and settling, so I’m only now arriving at the same two words: self-care. In order to be the mother I want to be, I need to be able to draw from a tank overflowing with helpful things like patience, calmness and resilience. My son currently empties this tank at an alarming rate, so, to replenish it, I need to figure out and spend time on things that supply rather than demand, and that leave me feeling energetic and willing and capable rather than depleted and lethargic and depressed. Like Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love, I’ve starting letting myself ask the question, “What do you want to do, Belle?”, and then listening kindly to my answers and doing whatever I can to make those little wishes become realities. It is a result of these Q and A sessions with myself that I present to you my top four ideas for change (in no particular order):
1. Refresh my French
J’adore French, possibly even more than j’adore Eat Pray Love, and if you read the first part of this post you’ll understand that that’s a lot. French has been a part of my life from my very first class with Mrs Hollebrandse in year 7, throughout high school and uni, and then (more sporadically) at my old job; that’s over 15 (FIFTEEN!) years of fondness for this language. It’s the longest romantic relationship I’ve ever been in. Our time apart since I finished work at the end of 2009 is getting harder and harder as it gets longer and longer; I miss French. I want French to come live with me again.
So I’ve messaged some Parisian relatives to ask for any ideas about possible French equivalents of Play School CDs that Moses and I could sing along to in order to learn/relearn simple vocabulary. I’m also going to borrow my sister’s Michel Thomas Learn French CDs, because I have a vague recollection of her telling me years ago that they were wonderful. (This one includes the bonus of “having to” fly to Adelaide to pick them up – my husband and I have been talking for a while now about me taking a weekend away on my own to celebrate the weaning of my son, and if this is the only excuse that will actually get me on a plane, I’ll use it.)
2. Play the guitar
As you may already know, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to learn the guitar before. I’d like to blame it completely on the fact that my husband was my teacher, but it probably has more to do with the fact that I’m incredibly lazy and don’t stick with anything that takes more than a few hours to master. My husband has bought some DVDs by Justin Sandercoe, an Aussie-born, London-based guitarist, who’s lovely, patient, cool and – perhaps most importantly - not married to me. I intend to practice with Justin every day until I’m brilliant enough to start a band, in 30 or so years’ time.
I really should. The plan is to start with Pilates and walking, at least one every day. I don’t want to, but I do want to. It’s very confusing.
4. Get my motorbike license
My husband has wanted me to get my bike license for a long time so that once I’m on my full license he can sell his learner bike and buy something more chunky. I’ve been avoiding going for my bike license for a long time because the thought of riding a motorbike terrifies me slightly, plus what about the helmet-hair? Obviously these are huge issues that I’ll need to work through, but I've decided just to sign up and see if I actually pass the course first. Being able to ride a motorbike would make it much easier to take time away from my son without having to leave my husband carless or spend hours catching various trains to get to where I want to go, and I feel like it will also provide me with a level of hardcoreness I've previously been unable to achieve.
So there you have it, the top slab of my Sanity List, to be started tomorrow. Or maybe next Monday, I like starting things at the beginning of a new week. No, dammit - I will start tomorrow.
But if I don’t, it’ll definitely be next Monday.
* ”Polyandry refers to a form of marriage in which a woman has two or more husbands at the same time” (from Wikipedia). I just learned this now, when I googled to see if there were any cases of women marrying more than one man, rather than the other way around. J’adore l’internet, aussi.