are you chasing the right dream?

In ALL, INTROSPECTION, RAISING HOPS INTO BEERS by Stephanie Klein32 Comments

I got the wrong nametag at the party. Everyone I meet thinks I’m independent, savvy, strong–interesting even. I’m tired of being her. I want to be little Ms. Dependent. To find someone I trust, then wear sweats and be dull. Skip the intersection of interesting and dazzling, and squat at Destination Exhale. Silent, mellow, and tired shouldn’t matter. I want to be able to not “have to be.” To turn off and let someone else get out of bed to turn up the air conditioner. He’ll kiss my head before I fall asleep and whisper bedtime stories until I begin to dream the endings. I just want a place to fall, nothing hard, nothing dramatic, something safe and lazy, something like a nap.

Passion can wake me, bite my lower lip in adoration. I want someone to share dirty martinis, oysters, kissing, and every intoxicating note of a song, every hill of a beat. Lick every chord. Share the bed, and the wine, and the occasional toothbrush. I hate how much I want these things. My want scares me.

We learn at such a young age to deny our desires for the common good. And we’ve been doing it so long; we bury them without thinking. And want resurfaces confused and dizzy, and I’m left unsure if what I crave is what I really want. In my silent lazy moments, desire resurfaces and scares the want, but never right out of me. It’s there, lingering, like dormant dreams from the previous night just as you close your eyes for bed. They rush in for a second, and you’re sure you remember, but as soon as you try, you can’t.

dream

I wrote that, what’s above *this* on May 18, 2004.  It’s now May 22, 2007, and I want.  Except now, I want the exact opposite.  It’s exactly as I stated: sometimes we think we know what we want, but once we have it, we realize that wasn’t it at all.  We were chasing the wrong dream, or at least, we weren’t taking the direct route.  Also, our wants can change.  Now, I want the never-ending red light that refuses to change already!  Leaving me stuck at the intersection of Fascinating and Lively.  I’m tired of being dull.  And this is the way it happens.  We long for the familiar, for someone else’s grass, or our old lives where things seemed tinted in shades of rose. "It’s normal to want your old life back once you become a mother."  But I don’t want my old life.  I just want. I want excitement, to explore, to experience new things.  I want to always be learning, to continue to grow and enrich my life. 

Quite a while ago, phone therapist had pointed out that we, okay I, crave excitement.  Maybe it’s in my wiring.  Who cares?  The point is, I seek it out, and when it’s not there, I’ll create it.  Now there’s good excitement, where we squeal in delight, and then there’s anxiety.  Anxiety is absolutely another form of excitement; it’s just the bad kind.  Now, forgive for a moment the whole "good" and "bad" thing here, because I really don’t believe in it.  What I’m saying is, we LIKE being excited.  We don’t like feeling anxious.  Yet, our bodies, our brains, something in us, something in me, craves a certain level of energy.  And if it’s not the "good excitement," I might just go ahead and create a situation worthy of being anxious.  Because I need to get my fix of energy one way or another.  If I’m bored, I might just go picking a fight (though I doubt it) just to feel, for lack of a better word, alive.  Knowing all this, when I can, I’d like to create my own excitement, the kind to which I look forward.

Overall, I am happy with my life.  Wanting things, even things to be different, for things to evolve and maybe even return to where things began, isn’t a bad thing.  It’s not a sign of unhappiness.  Whenever I say I want something, there’s always someone nearby pointing out that I should be happy with what I have.  They’re missing the point.  It is absolutely possible to appreciate and acknowledge all you have in your life and still want.  Not necessarily want for more, but want new.  Want change.  Want different.  It’s allowed.  It doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful.  It means you’re human.   It means you don’t want to settle in your life and instead see it as a task, a necessity, to challenge yourself.  To kick-start your life and question your habits. To live your best possible life.

I am unfulfilled living in the lazy.  Zoning out.  Numbing out.  Communicating less.  Clicking my night through the Internet.  Creating busy work.  To-do lists of "it really doesn’t matter."  I want to experiment.  My brain needs exercise.  My creativity needs to be challenged.  I refuse to be boring, and in turn, complain that I’m bored.

Everything in moderation, certainly.  Balance, yes.  But at a certain point, we get into patterns of easiest, forgetting, or simply not caring, what’s best.  What will help us be the best we can be, the best spouse, father, mother, child, person?  We stop caring about our own growth.  I have.  But eventually I come to the point where I realize, "I don’t want to live like this anymore."  I can complain or I can do something about it. 

So today I made a new list of wants, which I’m sure in three years time will be exactly what I no longer want.  Which is fine by me.  But you can’t just talk it, can’t hem on about the things you want to try just for the sake of it.  You need to set the goal and set an action-oriented plan.  Your list needs to be affirmative, filled with "I will" statements.  Otherwise, you’re a complainer who’s lazy and afraid, someone who doesn’t even honor her own needs, yet expects others to pay close attention to them. 

I want to read more.  Instead of watching television, I will commit to reading something (not a magazine).  I have books upon books I want to read but haven’t because each time I try to, I tell myself, "You should be writing your book, not reading this one."  Alternatively, I will tell myself, "Instead of wasting time on the internet, you’re reading this book." 

I want to improve my vocabulary and will one night a week make an effort to do so.

I will make plans, one night a week, to do something outside the house, without Phil, but with our children.  Maybe the three of us will be alone in a park, going for a walk.  Or we’ll be out with another mother and her children.  But the plan is to be responsible for Lucas and Abigail on my own.  At "unplugged night" listening to acoustic guitar on the patio, or to a Movies in The Park night for a picnic with friends.  Mommy and me type classes.  I need to get out of the house more, away from my computer, and I will.  I will get together with friends for dinner (who don’t so much mind the kid-friendly places we’ll need to go). 

Less important, but still worthy of inclusion, I will make an effort to be more creative.  To draw once in a while, even if it’s a quick sketch.  It doesn’t need to be perfect.  But at least it’s something.  It’s stretching.  And it’s what I need to feel alive.

Comments

  1. Hi Stephanie,
    I find it incredible that you find time to get bored and worry about being bored with two baby twins! When mine were as little as yours are now I would have given my left arm to feel bored just for a few minutes a day!
    Elizabeth

    FROM STEPHANIE: The truth is, it's not nearly as hard as people said. Lucas and Abigail are good happy babies. They're surprisingly easy. She's alert and inquisitive and likes being held. They like the mirror. I'm teaching them sign language and doing the signs as I sing songs. They're beginning to coo. Even with they're both hysterically crying, I know how to soothe them (usually). So I never have a feeling of hysteria or helplessness. I know they'll be fine. So I manage to have time for other things too. They're not as much of a handful as people said, really. The hardest bit though, I'll admit, is traveling with them alone. The car seats are so heavy, and watching me try to lug around two of them plus a loaded diaper bag… well, it's a task and a half. As much as I want them to remain just as they are now, so much of me cannot wait to do art projects with them.

  2. All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow, but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them. Who, miraculously, go
    to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick
    soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

    Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education-all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations — what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

    Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to
    positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

    When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on
    sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.

    Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old
    who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind?

    Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

    Every part of raising children is humbling. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the "Remember-When-Mom-Did" Hall of Fame.

    The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language — mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleep-over. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I include that here.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include
    that.)

    But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

    I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

    Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd
    done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I
    was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books
    never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

    by Anna Quinland

    FROM STEPHANIE: Anna went to Barnard, spoke at my graduation, and I find her very inspirational. I must say, I do live in the moment with these sweet little beans. I think, already, they're growing too fast. He's in 12 month old clothing, and he's 3 months and 2 weeks old. They're changing so fast. Abigail is already rolling onto her stomach and practicing sitting up! She's squealing now too, and knows how to whine, not just cry. They both light up when I sing "I love you a bushel and a peck." No matter how far apart I place them in their crib, they find each other in the middle of the night. Lucas has the faintest new birthmark beneath his small sweet pit. I'm taking it all in, and I wish I could slow it down, that I could savor them this way just a bit longer. Because soon enough, I'm going to miss having a baby. And if I have to go through pregnancy again, it ain't gonna be pretty.

  3. As a mother you are so right! I have been feeling these feelings for awhile and put them on the backburner which a mistake really. Now that my baby is going to be 4, and I am 35 I feel that I have to do something to recover what is left of my self. In addition to a list you should get a scap book or a 3 ring binder and cut out pictures to go with your wants. A visual helps tremendously especially when you lose focus admist the diapers, potty training and homework. So start making your dream book today its fun!

  4. Nice, I need to remind myself to do this all the time as well – especially with "more reading books/be more creative"
    The strangest thing is, I love it when I do read and create, so why do I have to give myself motivational speeches to make myself do it?? I guess I am just a lazy sod.

    In the interests of "improving my vocabularly" – and because I feel Alanis Morrisette has a lot to answer for! A black fly in your chardonnay is not ironic, it is just bad luck. Irony is when what happens is the opposite of what was meant to happen – so 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife is ironic, but meeting the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife, is not.

  5. At the beginning of the year I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish as a newly single woman. I've checked off over half of them and it feels great. I also got rid of internet at home. I live a mile away from my office, so if I "need" to access it, I can, but there is no aimless, useless, ridiculous surfing for me anymore. Instead I read, exercise, or just piddle around the house and it makes me feel so much more productive, and all around better.

  6. >

    Having been there; done that, I can attest to the fact that children respond positively to places that AREN'T thought of as "family restaurants." The behavior ante is upped by the presence of tablecloths, wine glasses, a nice ambiance, quiet, the lack of screaming children (and parents who refuse to control them). Call it "upscale manners," but it works. Maybe not at 6 months, but certainly once they're talking. Try it. I think you'll like it.

  7. Although it's from the older post, I love, " I got the wrong nametag at the party."

    That is just so simply put and rings home. Enjoy your time. It's so much easier to promise yourself to do things rather than actually doing them. My biggest challenge.

  8. there is a philosophy that claims that fears and desires (wants) is what bring unhappiness.
    Making positive changes in one's life is always good of course, but gratitude and acceptance are the true signs of innergrowth and maturity.

    FROM STEPHANIE: I don't know about that. I think you can have genuine gratitude and still want, and I don't see want as an association with unhappiness. I think not wanting, convincing yourself to be without want, is doing yourself a disservice. We learn to deny our wants for the greater good in childhood, and some of us never find our way back, stagnant, wondering what it is we really want. It becomes buried in a thick coat of guilt.

  9. I don't get it. How are you lazy/understimulated? Dont you have a book to write, a pilot to develop and twins to care for?

    FROM STEPHANIE: The book and pilot are work. I'm not talking about work. I'm not saying I need a more challenging job. I need to challenge my life beyond work. And yes, there are twins to care for, but it doesn't mean I have to do that at home. The point is, I want to push myself to go out with them more, leaving the house, and when we are home together, I'd rather be reading aloud to them over the lazy way out, of watching tv, or placing them on a play mat to pull at toys. Again, it's a balance.

  10. I was once told that highly creative people have a tougher time being satisfied with the normal stuff. We have so many choices available to us, that it is really hard to settle down on just one or two things and go from there. I often get jealous of people who say or said, "I want to do XYZ in life," and did it. And were happy!

    I think that maybe that's why at 36, I don't have kids, because I've always been afraid they would limit that creative process. I've lived an amazing, creative life and know that if I had kids, somehow I could no longer afford to be so self-indulgent.

  11. You could look at reading as 'research' for your own book — ie, that reading others' good words will help your own writing … that's what I tell myself, anyway! But I know how you feel about the computer; all too often I get sucked into reading stuff online, surfing around a bit, etc. rather than working on my own stuff. And getting out of the house is always good :)

  12. I admire that you are setting goals using "I will" statements instead of "I want to." It makes it seem more definite, more resolved. I, too, love making resolutions year-round (not just in January). Even though things in your life are somewhat stagnant (your family: husband and children) they are ever-changing (children growing up) and it is important that you keep pushing yourself to learn more, do more, evolve more.

  13. From one 'twin' mom, (who also happens to have a wild older son too), to another… it will get vvvveeeerrry interesting once they are on the move!!! So yes, get out of the house now… while they still stay in one place. Yup, it's work, believe me, I know. Once they start moving, however, you'll N.E.V.E.R leave again until they're 3!!! LOL Not unless you have someone with you anyway. Or, a fenced in play-ground. I remember the wants you listed so well. And yes, they do change. Now I just want time to stop because it's going way faster then I could have ever anticipated. I just want my kids to be healthy and happy. I'm afraid I've lost myself in my kids now and want to remember my life before all 'this'. You're doing great Stephanie. Motherhood is hard and lonely and isolating and rewarding and relentless and the biggest thing you'll ever do. Oh… and before you know it, you'll want another baby!!! :) :)

  14. What about the excitement of writing a TV series? Sounds totally fun and creative to me.

    FROM STEPHANIE: It is. I just haven't started yet. That is, I submitted an outline, and it was accepted. So I know what happens already in every scene, who all the characters are, etc. I just need to write the dialog. But I don't want to start it until I finish writing MOOSE. And again, that's work. It's not my life. It's a career, a joy, yes, but it's still work. It's something I love to do, but doing it on days you don't feel like doing it makes it a job, too.

  15. I like how you incorporated your blog from the past, with that of the present.

    When I express myself creatively, I too, feel more alive.

  16. You have done a brilliant job with this blog which I have been reading from time to time the last few years. You've stripped away the layers we all carry with us and allowed us to look under your hood. For that we should all be grateful since we carry similar streams inside and many people are learning from you as you learn from your own life experiences. I've been amused with your move to Austin. I am a former New Yorker (lived in Kips Bay area 10 years)and although I live and work near Detroit now, I run a company in Austin. I found the first few months quaint, eating at Threadgills (close to the Hyatt where I stay), 6th street, the Hill Country, etc., but strangely I am tiring of it a little. Not sure why, but the movements are starting to become too slow even though there is plenty to do. There is almost too much comfort there, too many nice beautiful people and of course way too much traffic. Haven't found a place to get a bagel with a shmear yet either. Austinites live in beautiful mists, silhouettes of shrouded blondes and men in tieless jackets with their toes dug into Austin business or Texas politics. What are people really saying, thinking and feeling? They never really say do they? Pleasant, warm handshakes, genuine smiles, but miles away, cocooned in some emerald city where their hearts are sifted in warm sands from some ancient place, touching nothing, saying nothing, smiling all day long … A New Yorker has a hard time with that. As a New Yorker, I want to know what you are thinking, now, everything, and always. I want to be connected, feel your heart beating and know you feel mine, know what you are going to say before your mouth opens, be forever friends, intimate in every way appropriate to the relationship. But in Austin the smiles melt away when you get too close and fly into the stars .. too tired to chase them … I lived in Charlottesville for a couple of years and felt the same things.

    I guess I am writing here though to simply complement you on being a pioneer here on the web, for your provocativeness and for being "real." That is so very cool. You are very cool.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Thank you for that.

  17. This post came at the perfect time for me. I just went back to college and finished up my bachelor's this spring and am feeling that I want to get my master's next. After taking a 14 year break from school. Now, I'm in this stage of wanting more, spending less time on the internet, reading and also improving my vocabulary and not just reading fluff, but other world events and historical issues.

  18. I am just waiting for people to read into doing something without Phil with the munchkins. My wife have always made it a point to at least once or twice a month have our time outside the house individually with our son. Kudos to you

  19. I was the last of my friends to have children. All of my friends went on and on about how rewarding motherhood was and how fulfilling it is to have children. All of my friends but one, that is. She told me how hard it was to adjust to motherhood and said that it wasn't until her son was about three years old that she finally got used to her new life, her new role, her new identity. Of course, since she was prone to bitching alot, I didn't believe her until I had my own. Then I understood completely, and I realized that either all of my other friends felt pretty empty before children, or they were full of shit. I now have two kids, 7 and 3, and my girlfriend was completely right. I didn't get used to my new life until my first one was three (that's why they're four years apart, by the way). Love my kids dearly, wouldn't trade them for my old life, but I miss all the things I've sacrificed to have them. Things like spontaneous vacations, going to grown-up movies, eating at nice restaurants, going to bars, peeing in private, etc…

    FROM STEPHANIE: I think peeing in private is highly overrated. I like the company.

  20. i'm 35 and often wonder if my life is what i want/ed it to be at this time…this last year i've really felt as if i'm in a rut, per many of my relationships, and my work. i am a very creative person, and yet, after my long days at work and commute ..by the end of the day i'm BEAT…and i don't do all the stuff i want to do. i live in one town, work in another, so THAT screws up the extracurrricular stuff i'd love to be involved in. now i'm in a holding pattern because i have a bun to think about, and all that she (he) entails. scared to start anything new for me because life will be so different come november yet, i truly believe that the bun will add the frosting to my cake, wherein, i'll love that damn cake even more…life is strange. just when i thought i knew everything, well, i woke up, and wouldn't you know it: a new day full of "WTF" now? hee hee. Crazy.

  21. How about finger painting with the babies?? :) Or starting a baby non profit group?!! Talk about being a pioneer. How funny. The local childrens shelter now has a kids council – what about a baby's council? he he – work done by the moms but damn, that'd be cute and a reason for y'all to get together. There's a gala at the Four Seasons in Oct, too! I can help you get started…

  22. FYI – the kids council is kids helping kids. The shelter has a nursery with babies as young as 3 weeks old

  23. Wow — I never thought of the "creating excitement" theory. I definitely do this but just hadn't evaluated it as such. These days, it's pinhole photography. That's my creative outlet. It's amazing and confusing all at the same time — what's not to love???

  24. Good for you for recognizing so early on in motherhood that you NEED some things in your personal life to keep you fulfilled. Took me years to learn that particular lesson.

  25. how is lucas "3 months and 2 weeks old" if the twins were born in 2006?

    FROM STEPHANIE: With premature babies, you by their adjusted age. Because they were born 10 weeks early, they weren't fully cooked. So you don't count that time in terms of development (or size). They were born under 3 lbs. So you recreate the womb as best you can in the NICU and let them continue to cook for 10 weeks. Then you begin to count their age once they reach 40 weeks (when babies are due to come out). So they were scheduled to be born, and mature, on February 13. It's how adjusted age works with preemies.

  26. I love this post. I resonate with this post. I am an excitement/energy junkie myself – that's why we loved New York so much (I lived there for 7 years). It's like in NYC, the excitement find you a lot of the time – there's just so much stimulation that's harder to be bored.

    But now I live in Atlanta and I know what you mean!

    It's hard to be us, to be people who crave something new, something to learn, something to get involved in. We are never satisfied with "what is" (although we can be perfectly content with our life). I, personally, gave up TV a year ago in order to read more. And I went back to school to try a completely new career.

    I don't think I'll ever change or grow into being comfortable with complacency. Even after I get married or have children. You can't deny who you are, after all!!

  27. This is VERY weird. So even though the children were born and all, into the real world, because they were 10 weeks premature, they're only considered, in age, 3 and a bit months now?? So when's their first birthday gonna be? The 10 weeks later one or the actual birth date? Very very strange.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Yes, this is the way it works for ALL premature babies. It's not something I made up. They are suspected to catch up with kids who were born in December, not February, by the time they're three years old. So they will be in kindergarten with kids born in 2006, not 2007. And as far as birthdays go, we will celebrate they day they were born. But developmentally, and physically, at least for the next three years, they will be behind.

  28. Ten years ago I coveted my platinum status on American Airlines and traveled first class frequently to destinations around the world. Now I live in the suburbs and get the privilege of preboarding with my preschoolers on Southwest Airlines. I think about how the men who once found me beguiling would now find me boring. But my little boys think I am the most beautiful, funniest, smartest, exciting person in the world and that is what matters most.

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