Sunday, January 02, 2011

I Was Feeling Part of the Scenery/I Walked Out of the Machinery

This year will go down in the record books as the year that I learned that there can indeed be spaces in togetherness without causing the entropic collapse of the universe. Or even my emotional universe. My most favored state of being is that of barnacle (as wife, mother, friend, etc.) and I am really, really good at it. I require almost no alone time. Ever. Lots of therapists have had lots of theories, but I don’t need a theory. And I don’t need to force myself to spend time alone when I would rather spend time with others. I don’t need to imagine what alone time would look like/feel like/taste like. Sharing space with others is my most favorite pastime, and I can do it until someone peels themselves away from me.

I am back in NYC after spending nearly three weeks in Massachusetts. I headed up there with the girls early December and never came back. Nicole came up for long weekends and then for the week after Christmas, and then we all headed back to NYC together on January 1st. And now, I am going though a mini culture shock.

Originally, the idea of spending time up in Massachusetts without Nicole seemed preposterous. Why ever would I go up there with the girls alone when we could all be together in NYC? Why would I want to parent (The Verb) on my own when I could look forward to company/relief/help/companionship when Nicole came home from work? And why would I even think of spending the night alone in a house in the middle of the deep dark woods, outside of screaming distance of the neighbors?

But I did it, this fall, and I worked through the fear. I am proud to say that I no longer sleep with a knife, car keys, phone and flashlight under my pillow. And I even stopped sleeping with the girls and now sleep on the couch. Sleeping upstairs alone: The final frontier. One of my Christmas presents this year should help with that. Though I still think Nicole really got this because she can control the heat from her computer, thus lowering my 80 degree thermostat setting to a more reasonable and chilly 70.

And now, I’m sort of going through this period of wondering where I belong. Ah, yes, the first existential crisis of the year Twenty Eleven. Existential with a touch of narcissism, since it isn’t just about where I belong. Madeline and Avery are power players in this scenario too. And Nicole, of course. There is no “me” in family or “I” in team and all that. And yet every me and I in a family is very important.

Winter in the city scares me a little. There is a serious deterioration of quality of life as the snow banks in the city make the sidewalks even harder to navigate and the freezing weather keeps up locked inside. Our daily trips to the park/playground/zoo halt until March. Our daily wandering walks are replaced with most-direct-path errand running. Last year was rough. It was too cold to go outside and the girls were too young to take to places like movies and museums with any sort of favorable outcome. I felt cooped up in the apartment with two energetic toddlers who didn’t understand why we could go to the playground. But in Massachusetts, there is no cooped up. There’s the parent group and Store School and all that land. And there, I feel like I am a better mom. More patient and more sane and more balanced. With a huge carbon footprint.

And yet, when I am in Massachusetts, I feel like I am leaving part of me in New York. And I don’t just mean Nicole. I do like the duality of it, and love and am grateful that we can expose the girls to the best of both worlds. But the other side of me that loves consistency and routine is feeling the burn as I straddle. And I am seeing these two sides of me emerge: The fast-walking, aggressive driving New Yorker with the meandering, “no, please, after YOU” New Englander. My parenting styles are even quite different. In NYC, I need to, for example, yank Avery by the coat collar if she dashes too close to the sidewalk’s edge and traffic. There’s mere inches between children and horrific traffic accidents. But in Massachusetts, if she is running down the driveway, I can just tell her to slow down and wait for me at the end because there is not a car in sight. And now, I feel just a little less New Yorker and a tad more New Englander, and I think that’s a good thing. Although, the New Yorker side does rear its head in Mass at time, to uproarious effect. But that’s another post.

I always said that I don’t care where we are, as long as we are together as a family. And that will never change. So this is very much a work in progress. I am very much a work in progress. And the girls, bless their little hearts, are just going with the flow.

Pictured above, snow fun! And Avery, my emotional doppelganger, with Nicole, her physical doppelganger.


Boo said...

I love the term barnacle. It describes me perfectly. Thanks for another beautifully written and thought provoking post.

K J and the kids said...

Barnacle. ewww.
You could have used something from your new life like sap or the whole birds of a feather (you even have pictures to go with that) instead of your old life on a boat metaphor. :-)

I just love reading all of your thought out posts.

I'm glad that you've had a taste of the other side. but. maybe feeling the green grass on the other side will only help callus your straddle ? hmm ?
It might just work for you to bounce back and forth.

Oh and that whole changing the temp. from her computer had me laughing out loud. :)
I wasn't picturing her on the couch downstairs. I was picturing her in NY saving on energy costs at the vacation home ! ha ha ha

Amy said...

This post totally resonates for me as we just spent 40 days at our 2nd home and we're struggling with what makes sense too! BtW, Avery's resemblance to Nicole is uncanny!!

Nora said...

I totally think that I'm a better parent living in a smallish town. The thought of parenting in NYC gives me palpitations; everything is so much harder.

I'm very pleased for you that you have options. I am not a barnacle, and would still miss my wife if we had to be apart that much. You are a brave soul.

(I also am the only one who knows how to program our t-stat and just dropped the night time temp down to 55. My wife hasn't noticed yet - I just keep bringing her a mug of hot tea when she complains. I love the remote idea. )

anniefoley said...

beautiful post. favorite line: The fast-walking, aggressive driving New Yorker with the meandering, “no, please, after YOU” New Englander. LOVE.