Archive for September, 2013

Taking Life As It Comes

keep-calm-and-mellow-out

Dave and I had an infamous (well, to us, anyway) conversation several years ago that began with him telling me, at great length and in vivid detail, about his then-current hopes and aspirations in life.

He then ended by saying, “Kath, I guess what I’m saying is, are you living the life you imagined?”

“Yup.” I replied.

There was a long silence, and then we both howled laughing.

Because, really, the conversation was so typically us. Dave likes to examine everything in detail, with the nuance of a writer, analyst, and anthropologist. I love listening to him dissect situations, and examine alternatives out loud. He worries about the existential nature of life, how we fit into the universe, and why we’re here, in this form.  I, generally, do not worry about these things, and, as such, don’t have much to say. My talkative brothers describe car trips with me as “painful,” since I’m usually quiet.

I have gotten better since we’ve had children, especially since we have kids who are so inquisitive and philosophical. I also talk a lot when I have something I care about, and tend to interrupt people, but I have to confess this is generally because I just want to say what needs to be said and get to the end of the conversation. At home, my kids talk a lot, so I don’t have to. I just need to listen, and I’m pretty good at that particular skill.

While I definitely have my goals in life – and have achieved many of them – I typically take life as it comes.  If I have a certain way I’d like to see things done, then I make sure they are done that way. I round on my own patients, while insisting that nurses and other support staff do what work belongs to them. I don’t make “honey do” lists for Dave; if I want something done, I do it – or arrange to have it done – myself. Dave does the same, and we discuss as we go.

After part-time homeschooling over the last two years, we embarked on full-time homeschooling our three kids this month. This is definitely a “take it as it comes” arrangement: every day brings new joys, challenges, discoveries, and heartbreaks. We make a schedule, then ignore it some days; the kids start projects, then get interested in something else. We try to walk a balance between insisting they complete a course or project, and allowing them to wander among their activities and interests, knowing that once something catches their imagination, they will run without any help from us. The trick is forcing ourselves to wait, and not intervene, while the learning process develops naturally on its own.

I live among intense kids who feel exuberance and despair, and I am part of the balance in their lives. Now that we are together and learning every day, that balance feels even more important. The conversation still goes on in our house, with Dave spinning tales to the kids about the wonder and amazement in the universe, and I listen, engaged in the conversation, adding my own comments here and there.  When the kids ask me if I’m happy, I still answer “Yup,” and then break out a huge smile.

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Just This Side of Narcolepsy

I have the sleep gene. I can fall asleep anytime, practically anywhere, within about ten minutes. One of my daughters, H, got the sleep gene from me as well. ( Our son falls asleep easily but literally pops out of bed at 5:30 am, so I don’t count him as a “sleeper.”) H and I go to bed early, and get up at a reasonable time. I can’t really think of the last time I didn’t sleep all night, given the opportunity. I’ve had countless patients lament to me that they can’t sleep, and while I earnestly listen and empathize with them, in truth I really have no idea what that feels like.

My husband and other daughter, E, on the other hand, have difficulty sleeping at all.  Stimulating intellectual intensity, a desire to read continuously, and feeling there are not enough hours in the day to fit in all of the varied activities they’d like to explore, results in the two of them being up late at night. When I first met my husband, he was stunned that I napped (I come from a long line of professional nappers.) When Dave and I lived in our little apartment, if I had been napping longer than an hour, he would come in, bouncing on the bed, to wake me up to go do something. I would stare at him, one-eyed, like a cat, wondering why he couldn’t sleep more like me (I fondly called him “Tigger” during this phase.)

Things did calm down somewhat when I entered medical school and residency, since I was in a constant state of sleep deprivation for seven years. I was gone every third or fourth night – working all night, and when I did get home to sleep in my own bed, Dave would definitely let me sleep. Having twins leveled things out even more – then I was the one who could tolerate the sleep deprivation, since I’d been living it for so many years. After the fatigue of having three kids, Dave now sleeps more than he used to, and even occasionally naps with me.

So it’s not surprising that I consider sleep to be the best form of self-care for me. Walks and bike rides are great, pedicures and foot rubs even better, but nothing beats a great nap in our bed. The main benefit is brain rest: I can stop thinking about my patient list, a half-finished homeschool project, or what I need to get done around the house. I can blissfully rest away, and, for a short time, all the other issues can wait.

I feel a little sad every time I wake up from a great nap that Dave can’t share that feeling with me. Even while he sleeps, his brain is working overtime. As an example, yesterday, our son – who has always taken to water like a fish – overdid things at the pool, and I had to make him sit out for a while to rest. Dave got himself up twice during the night to check and make sure our son wasn’t “dry drowning.” Once Dave gets something in his head, he won’t be able to sleep until he rectifies it. As a consequence, his mental reset mechanisms are different: playing the guitar, a brisk walk, or a great movie gets him re-centered and ready to go.

Regardless, whether it’s sleep or exercise, we both find that working and homeschooling is impossible if we don’t take care of ourselves, too. Stopping the world to allow ourselves some time to center is the only way to power this system for the long haul. We both encourage the other’s needs: if I announce I’m taking a nap, Dave will say, “that sounds like a great idea, you should definitely go.” I offer the same encouraging words when he’s going out for a bike ride or off to band practice.

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, the bed is calling my name.

 

 

 

We’re participating in a blog hop with Gifted Homeschoolers Forum this week on “Sleep and other Forms of Parental Self-Care.”

Check out the other posts on this topic!

Sept GHF Bloghop