What I Learned in 2016 As A Mama, A Fashion Person And A Questing Soul In Search Of Enlightenment And Inner Peace

2016 was both a lovely and difficult year for me personally. I still labored in the shadows and fogs of post-partum depression that would creep out and abduct me when I least expected it. (I guess it’s now just everyday regular ol’ depression!)

But there were also great swaths of happiness and contentment — I simply had more fun this year, whether it was with clothes, going out (just a tad) more or working on this blog. I got to know my beloved child a little better and grew into being a more attuned, at-ease mama with him. (Well, some of the time. Most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing and am still frazzled and plagued with inadequacy and failure.) I’m still finding my equilibrium, and while my progress may be slow, stalled at times or seem pain-staking, it’s still tiny steps forward.

Even when things are tough, I console myself with what I’m learning and how I’m growing. These are some of the lessons and “soul medicine” I took in and experienced this year. As I get older, I feel like I’m “learning in circles” — I keep heading back to the same themes, but exploring them more deeply or connecting to them in a different way.

Children are a lot more accepting, forgiving and patient than given credit. One of the most persistent features of my PPD is my intense guilt that I’m “ruining” my child. This is a very logical fear for me — not to get too detailed, but I grew up in an emotionally turbulent home in an psychological atmosphere that alternated between intense negativity and icy repression. I have many happy family memories, but I also remember feeling often terrified and confused as a child. I know what growing up with a depressed parent is like, and it wasn’t fun — and I feel guilty all the time that I’m subjecting Budgie to something similar. So I’m trying hard to go about it all in a much different way, because as much as I want to, I just can’t wish and hope and vibe my depression away easily.

But one thing I’ve discovered is that my own child is always ready to love and accept me, and it helps immensely. He doesn’t want me to be perfect — he just wants my love and expressed affection. It helps that I’ve found being open and honest about my difficult feelings with him — in a way that is sensitive to his age and doesn’t put any responsibility on him to manage my emotions — goes a very, very long way in helping me and him, and maybe helps me to model how to deal with difficult, intense feelings we all deal with as human beings. If I can have the presence of mind to tell him something like “Mama didn’t sleep as well as she wanted last night, so she gets grouchy at little things that normally don’t grouch her,” he seems to understand, if not entirely “get it.” Maybe he just appreciates the effort, and the fact that I’m trying to be considerate and let him know he’s not the cause of it? I don’t know, but I’m already in awe of his compassion, his humor and his ability to thrive despite my difficulties.

The wondrous gift of full and complete attention. My toddler is hitting full-throttle tantruming and meltdown mode, and yeah, it’s not very fun. But I’ve strangely found that if I make an effort to give him my full and complete divided attention for even just a small part of the day — even just 15 minutes! — he’s a lot less volatile and whatever meltdowns we do run into are milder and shorter-lived.

Don’t put off self-care, ever. What’s tricky about this is that I KNOW I should hit the hot tub at the gym or just read magazines and listen to some music and just have time to do nothing but exist. But there’s always one more errand, email or task I can do. Often I put self-care off, like “Well, I have to buy presents and get groceries for this or that social occasion when we promised to bring whatever, so I’ll get that done first even though it takes all day, so then I’ll go to the sauna at the gym on Friday…” But that is just a recipe for moodiness, exhaustion and burnout that can lead to more difficult periods of depression. Sometimes, mama just has to put herself first, dinner will just have to be an effin’ takeout pizza that night and we’ll just bring a dang bottle of wine to the party!

Even money has seasons. I’ve written before on how personal finance is usually a super-bougie topic ridden with super-bougie “one size fits all” assumptions. But one thing I’ve appreciated growing into is the understanding that money itself has cycles and seasons — some are for saving, some for investing, some for reaping and harvesting. And it helps to know what season you’re in, as well as what season you’re coming into. It’s okay not to save as much or spend more — if you choose consciously and do so mindfully.

Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. This is one of those things that I cycle through again and again, learning the lesson of letting go in a new domain or setting. And as a parent, I’ve realized that as try as I might, things aren’t always going to be the way I’ve envisioned them. Big fat duh! But as simple as this is as a mental insight, this has been harder to practice in real life. At some point, I just have to take a deep breath, tell myself I did as well as I could and just let go and move onto the next thing.

Take time to record the little things — because the time really does go by fast. I recently put all the little videos I took of Budgie on my phone and made them into one longish super-movie about 30 minutes long. (Yeah, this is what I got an MFA in filmmaking for!) I even created a little goofy dance sequence to his favorite song of the year, which is Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.” I was really astonished and then quite melancholy at how quickly he’s changing and growing, and realized I need to get better about recording all the little things he says and does — if only because I realized just how much pleasure it gave me to go through all that older footage and bask in how much he’s grown and how much I’ve grown to love him.

Kairos vs. chronos time. I think about time a lot — how we experience it, what fills it, why it seems so slow sometimes and so fast in other ways, and so of course I was always fascinated by how other cultures and histories conceptualize time. The idea of kairos vs. chronos time has been really key to me for awhile now — the ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. Chronos time is seconds, minutes, hours and such — a finite amount of grains of sands in the hourglass that we proportion out to buckets labeled “work,” “family” and the like. Chronos time is externally determined, by things like deadlines, clocks, timers and such. It’s that complicated mental calculus that moms have to do when they mentally calculate how long it takes to run to Target, then the grocery store and then drop this or that off — and somehow fit a workout in there, or some time at a cafe to work on something personal and important. It feels pressured and scarce.

But much of my “life project” is trying to make time feel more “kairos” — which is a more subjective, emotional dimension of time. “Kairos” itself means “opportune moment” — it refers to an intersection of time and being that feels auspicious and “right.” It’s basically like flow, like when you are so wrapped up in a fulfilling experience that you lose track of it. Or when you’re on vacation and can simply drift from one activity to the next, feel to explore inspiration and divination at will. The content of “kairos” time is something we author, and I’m constantly trying to consciously create “kairos”-like experiences — because a life lived by only chronos time feels soulless, deadening and sad.

This year, so much of my “mom time” felt too chronos-like: too driven by deadlines, clocks and the imperative to make it all work despite the limited amount of time I have available to me. I’m trying to find a way to make my momming around feel a bit more like flow, like inspiration. That seems like an impossibility — because childcare and householding honestly is a non-stop shitbucket at times and is not something I enjoy naturally. I have a partner who takes on a lot, but being a parent is genuinely monumental in terms of how much work it is, so I really have to try to find something of worth in it — or else feel like I’m just passing through this life getting stuff done, only to realize it was a lot of sturm-und-drang, and for what? I admit, this is a very highfalutin lesson, but I’m spending the balance of 2016 thinking of those tiny concrete steps to make my time feel richer, more meaningful and more FUN in 2017.

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This blog has been one of those tiny steps, and it’s been a real pleasure to create a space here for myself that was devoted to self-expression, growth and fun in the form of CLOTHES.

There were times when I questioned why I was spending my limited free time on a fashion blog when I should be doing something more “substantial” or “important”? But it boils down to pleasure, joy and beauty: I write here because fashion reminds me to play, to take pleasure and be creative with an obligation and to express myself in even this most commonplace of ways. Sometimes my life feels starved of sheer enjoyment, but writing and creating Up For Wonder gives me a place to find the fun in life again.

If you’re reading this, thank you for sharing this tiny part of the voyage with me…and I’m looking forward to sharing and creating more here in 2017!

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