When I think of the times in my life where I have been the most “myself”, it is almost always a mess of some sort. The memories I pull look nothing like a still life because there is always the blur of action rounding out the shot, there is always movement. This seems to go against conventional approaches to being fully present; be still, slow down, focus completely on one thing (such as breathing). Though this recharge is crucial, for many, including me, it’s almost painful to achieve. Yes, of course, I want to lower my blood pressure and slow my heart rate, but if I carve out five minutes of time to myself, I also want to learn how to do an effortless fishtail braid, apply liquid eyeliner, fix the goggle straps that keep coming undone, trim those two low lying palm fronds I can see from where I am sitting and doesn’t the dog need a bath? But I should be seizing the opportunity to unwind. The easiest way to become more of myself is to be more at peace, more tranquil, rested, and centered, getting me back to my essential being, I hear. The problem is I can’t be here and be there at the same time.
Being here is what happens when I am unstacking the dishes, eyeing what little sister considers “a pinch” of fish food (while trying to remember where I put the fish net so I can retrieve about half of it), watching big sister as she does an interpretive dance version of a Kidz Bop! song (an analysis of a cover of song writers’ experience of a singer) and mulling over getting bangs (DON’T DO IT!). It could be argued that I am not doing any of these things fully, or presently. As parents, it can be hard to figure out what the right balance is – if we are living for our kids, or our kids are being slighted while we pursue what is essential to our individuality. We want to give them the world, including all of ourselves while extolling the importance of them never losing themselves. One day, these little girls will grow into women and if they choose, into mothers, and it is my responsibility as a role model to show them how to not be stifled by the honor.
Folding laundry with the girls a few days ago, little sister started cracking up as she held up a pair of my husband’s boxer briefs, her hands forming two tiny and perfect okay symbols where the fingernails of her thumbs and index fingers held the waistband. “AHAHAHAHAHAHA, Daddy’s underwear, these are so funny”, she cried out. In all seriousness, her sister turned to her and asked why they were funny, because they were just underwear and “everyone in the house wears underwear”. “Oh my gosh, no they don’t”! Little sister replied. “The dog doesn’t wear underwear”! (Giggle, giggle, snort). “The fish doesn’t wear underwear”! “And his bagina goes in these”! (Now she was really losing it). “It’s vagina”, I corrected. “DAD HAS A VAGINA”?!?!, Big sister countered, clearly shocked. I can wholeheartedly say that for that moment, I closed my eyes, focused solely on my breathing and was fully present.