Wednesday, May 13, 2015

where there is no circus

If anyone needs me, you can find me in the front yard replenishing my vitamin D supply while I watch Bronwyn run barefoot and blow bubbles.

To say that we are excited to be outside again after surviving the tundra months is an understantement. If you live in the North East United States, I know you’re feelin’ me. Brutal, man. Brutal. I’m not entirely sure how we made it through but I know every individual and family had their own version of a battle plan.

I sure did. I prayed. And wept. And watched far too much HGTV. I slid my way down the hill for church and one other weekly interaction with humans. I flipped pages on the calendar. I jokingly harassed my husband in Zambia for never wearing a shirt because it was “too hot.” I waged war against SAD. I referred to my maternity leave as exile. I slept for nine hours a night. I sang the hallelujah chorus when we broke freezing. I was unapologetically melodramatic. I held on.

The one thing that made it all doable was the realization that, for me, this was all temporary. Next December through April, the chitlins and I will be religiously applying sunblock. We will not fear for the safety of our ears in the two minutes it takes to get the mail. We will SEE THE NEIGHBORS MORE THAN ONCE A FORTNIGHT.

Living in Zambia has shown me over and over that human beings were never meant to live in isolation. The cold keeps Americans locked away in ways that are unhealthy even for us introverts. And what I discovered in this season of cold hibernation is that, unfortunately, no one feels the sequester more than the stay at home moms.

I actually started to think of myself as a priosoner or war, (or maybe a nut house patient,) as all the hours of all the days were filled with imaginary play and the merging of my brain with that of my child. The days wore on and on. I longed to send her outside to find nature-based entertainment, but every time I opened the back door to chuck a poopy diaper into the garage, I felt the bite and remembered just how much nature hated us.

I would like to see a correlated graph of winter temps and wine consumption of NE housewives. Because had I not been pregnant… mmhm. A local analgesic is exactly what I needed. I love one-on-one time with Bronwyn - I really do. I think she’s the greatest. She’s the short, blonde love of my life and I can’t get enough of her.

But Zambia has ruined me. It’s all I’ve ever known in the realm of mommy-hood, and I now see that I’ve been conditioned to be a very specific kind of mother. My entire parenting strategy and my ability to invest solid chunks of love and happy feelings into our home while still feeling like a fully functional, sane adult, is completely dependent on this: the circus showing up at our house every day to lend me a hand.

I’m a little ashamed to admit this because Bronwyn is surely an amazing kid, but I maintain that I am a happy parent because I willingly outsource 90% of the kiddie play to the other kiddies who never run out of imagination and youthful nonsense.

This is our Zam-life. Every day, for all seasons. Including “winter.” I could set my clock by the prompt morning arrival of short people at my door. I live for this cycle because it is during the play time of the tinies that I do absolutely anything I want to. I clean. I write. I prepare. I plan. I do my job. I think grown up thoughts. I am mindful of what’s happening out there – I know these kids lack certain “be careful” brain cells, so I am always peripherally paying attention, but otherwise, I am FREE. It is the most beautiful system ever and I still cannot fathom how the perennial Tundra Moms survive without it.

But the US vs. ZM contrast gets worse. It is mid-May here and the tuplis and my belly are both in full bloom and the sweet refrain of our days is “Hey girl! You wanna go outside?” The fresh air is lifegiving indeed, but the SAD sticks with me in some ways. I think I had an expectation that with the rising temps I’d start to feel more Zambian – more at home. But there was one thing that I miscalculated. Despite the return of the sun, we still don’t have a circus.

I shed a tear when I took this picture (true story). 

All of this wide-open space and a grand total of one little person. In my former life, I would expect this hospitable land to be occupied by no less than a hundred short and sweet humans. I mean, we have BUBBLES here, so clearly this is the place to be. And yet, my kiddo is all by herself.

She’s happy enough, gloriously flexible and low maintenece that my child is, but my heart sinks a little knowing what it will take to give her the gift of socialization: a play date. My Zambian nose wrinkles at every mention of play dates. As much as I love them – oh, how do I say this without sounding heinous – ok I confess, I just don’t. You see, the beauty of the circus coming to my house to play is that I can then disappear and do my thing, whereas with a play date, I’m still obligated to be present and attentive and participate in the kid world. Sure I have another mom to talk to, and I do love that! But it also means I get no ME time. No writing, no planning, no thinking of the deep thoughts.

America has disrupted my rhythm. I have zero mojo. I have not blogged since NOVEMBER because my braincells have gone to mush.

Dear Lord, get me back to the circus.

I will never again complain about excessive noise or over-crowding in my living room and I willingly accept the consequence of a neighbor kids peeing on my floor every afternoon because it will mean friendship for my children and precious freedom for me and that is worth all the golden eggs in the world.

And simultaneously, I’m so sorry, Tundra moms, that while I’m escaping back to happy circus land, you are stuck here, and will endure again, and again. I don’t even know what to say other than I will light candles for you.  You are clearly on a higher latitude of motherhood and have transcended to heights of enlightenment of which I can only dream. You are strong and resilient, steady and amazing. I pray that you are the recipient of random acts of kindness and that bouquets of flowers randomly appear on your kitchen counter. I hope that when your tinies are grown and no longer needing your constant entertainment and play-date-planning, that all the people will rise and call you blessed. 

I already am.