Back when my daughter and I were in preschool together (we did a one-day-a-week parent-participation preschool program with an evening parent-ed class), we parents used to talk about periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Kids go through periods of relative stability when things seem just peachy-keen and they’re agreeable, sweet little creatures and their parents feel like geniuses at child-rearing, for what other reason could there be for their children to be so wonderful? These stable periods alternate with periods of learning and growth and instability, marked by tantrums and irritability and frustration, which leave parents feeling like they clearly have no idea about this whole parenting thing and they probably should never have had children in the first place.
Equilibrium and disequilibrium. And not just kids go through these periods. We all do, to one extent or another.
I think I’ve been through a little period of disequilibrium this week.
Of course things are up-in-the-air. We just moved cross-country, sold one house, and are in the process of buying another. We live in a hotel, for crying out loud, and as of Tuesday, we’ll have no home address whatsoever. I have an oven, but no pans in which to bake anything. We have no set place to put the scissors or my headphones, and so I can never find these items when I want them (but am constantly tripping over them when I don’t). The housekeepers might show up at any time during the day, or they might not show up at all and we’ll be left with overflowing trash cans and dirty towels. I don’t leave the hotel without a stack of maps and written directions to even the simplest destination.
But even within this period of upheaval, I notice the ebb and flow of equilibrium and disequilibrium.
I think that this most recent period of disequilibrium came about with the knowledge that this is the last month of my Happiness Project and I really don’t know what I’m going to do next. What kind of blog will this be after August 1st? Should I even continue keeping a blog? I spend a fair amount of time blogging, and perhaps my time would be better spent.
Maybe I ought to focus my time on reading classics of literature, history, biography, and poetry in order to make myself a better teacher for my children and to enrich my own life through education. Maybe this is the time I should get myself into a more intense workout routine, maybe finally do a triathlon or a half-marathon or something. Or maybe I could take piano lessons. Or I could play my flute in a community band. Or take a course to become a naturalist. Or I could just go back to my perennial goal and finish the novel I started in November and join (or start) a local writing group.
And I feel irritated because even when I decide what to do, I won’t be able to put my plan into action until we’re settled in our new house.
I know that things are going well, and I’m very grateful for the fact that we have a closing date and a move-in date set for our house here. I’m enjoying it here and loving the hikes the kids and I take. But we’re still in flux and it’s getting to me.
Tonight, after a lot of pouting and stomping about, I left my husband with the kids and spent an hour on the treadmill downstairs. By the time I was nice and sweaty and tired, I’d decided to do my best to embrace the disequilibrium. I can’t get to stability and routine without going through the chaos. This is a time to release my hold on all of the routines and objects and ideas I’ve clung to so fiercely and let myself explore other possibilities and take in new ideas. There will be a time to choose a new course, or to allow a new course to unfold before me, it’s just not now.
The key during this time I’m in now is to read and to hike and to meet new people, to spend my time in enriching activities and taking care of myself by eating as well as I can and getting a decent amount of sleep. And I need to remember that feeling confused or in chaos doesn’t mean that I’ve failed as a mother or a person. It’s just the result of this period of growth. This is a time of waiting and collecting and learning. The equilibrium will follow. Things will get easier. I will find the scissors and maybe even the headphones.
And then, just as certainly, they’ll get more difficult again. I might as well sit back and enjoy it instead of railing against it.