For a couple of years I spent the summers here in Brisbane depressed and cranky and I could not understand why. Then one year it clicked – everything shut for summer – no after school activities, no playgroup, no school or kindy. It was like my life and connections packed up and left, leaving me with no time alone. I am an introvert through and through – I need time alone every-single-day to ensure my survival.
I also have one daughter (Lulu) who is an extrovert. Since she was little she has thrived on activity. She was always asking what was the next thing we were doing, where were we going next (as we walked in the front door after a 3 hr outing), who were we seeing. It is exhausting. She is the energizer bunny with no off switch. She did not need naps as a baby, has outlasted much older kids at night gatherings, and wakes up and goes from sleepy eyes to activity in minutes. Do you know where she gets her energy from as an extrovert? The people who she sees, plays with, visits… and when there is none of that – ME! She drains me like a vampire taking my blood. I love her with all my heart and she knows that. I also need a break so I can recharge and catch my breath.
Once I understood why I was so depressed and cranky I vowed to be proactive and not let it happen again. I would plan for the summer – playdates a few times a week, outings, family holiday time, hire new videos, make sure holiday gifts were enticing enough…
This year though – I cracked. Two days before school let out my mother arrived. She is 71 years old and although that shocks my friends who have met her and thought she was at least 10 years younger (always been that case- thank god I got those genes!), she has finally slowed down. She got winded trying to walk 5-10 minutes around hilly Brisbane areas (or the mall)*. I got concerned and changed my mental plans. We could not possibly manage the zoo or even walks to the park. So I retreated into our home. We would do art, go to the cinema, play games and read. I wish I had left myself a note that said “don’t retreat – retreating WITH others makes you crazy” as that is what happened. I was like a caged animal except this time instead of having 2 kids all day long I had my mother as well. Oh how this caged animal snapped, bit the hand that had fed her, snarled at well intentioned comments.
We managed some nice days out, went to the art gallery, the state library, dinner out and lunches too, but I know her visit was not as she pictured it. I kept trying to back track, apologise and move forward again as the daughter I wanted to be (happy, loving and gracious) but it did not work.
When I went and ran errands for 2 hours – alone – I could breathe again and see a bit more of me.
When I had an overnight in the city with my husband I could breathe again and see even more of me.
When I drove away from the airport with just my girls I felt terrible that I felt lighter in my chest.
Slowly I was coming back to life.
Last week my girls went to vacation care for one day – 8 hours – and I finally was alone. Finally, I felt my shoulders stop aching, my back unclenching, I could think – and breathe again.
This week they have gone two days and I am actually getting on top of “life” and can think straight, I can think of others again, I can be there in the way they need me.
And of course I feel terrible that I am completely incapable of being there for people when they are with me all the time. This is one of the things that prompted my thoughts on redefining normal. As an introvert with depressive tendencies I have a lethal combo for dealing with visitors. Living thousands of miles away from both of our families means my husband and I only ever get long term visitors. They arrive and unpack and settle in for 3-6 weeks** – and I die a little just at the moment I want to celebrate and explore and love them all.
So as we head into the last weekend of the school holidays I am grateful for the day we have planned at the beach with friends on Sunday, followed by dinner back at their home. I will drink white wine and laugh as I watch my children swim at the beach and fish into the canal at the back of their house. I will also be one of those parents thrilled that when I go to sleep that night it will be the end of my summer life and the return to my “normal” life. I will revel in dropping my kids at school so that I may revel in their return at 3pm. I will be recharged and ready to play games, read books, bake and cuddle. Each day I will snap less, breathe more and return to centre – my centre and what I need to be me in other people’s worlds.
What are you grateful for this week?
Find your simple,
I will be linking up with Bron and her grateful group that is now hosted over at Kidspot! Check out a whole group of people all connecting over gratitude.
*I am sure my mother is reading this and hating me for 1) mentioning her age (and she won’t focus on the fact that everyone thinks she looks fabulous) and 2) for thinking she could not keep up (think about your friend who jumped the baby gate while you were away and ended up in the hospital and the conversation we had that she is not 15 any more – everyone slows down, it is okay!)
** longest visit to date was my mother’s 9 week stay in our last (teeny tiny) house. I was the one who said “come, stay the whole summer right through to see the girls first day of school and Lulu’s birthday in February” – I told you I was crazy
Image credits: Introvert poster
This too shall pass print available from etsy – I think I should get it and hang it where I can see it every day!