Finding Balance: Closeness and Space

The funny thing about looking at other peoples’ lives and accomplishments is we all have the same amount of hours in the day.  I follow a clean eating accountability group on Facebook (ahem–Kylie) and there was a quote about that very thing.  I thought to myself “I am no more tired than the next bloke.  We’ve all got stuff to do and we’re all tired at the end of the day.”  Tired is relative.  Pain is relative.  Stress is relative.  Welcome to America, land of “my life is harder than yours”.

Where am I going with this?  Well, first of all, I tasked myself with trying to find more energy in my day.  I don’t work out because I don’t have the time/energy to do it (said every person ever).  I need more energy!  I’m nursing, so it can’t come from caffeine.  I get enough hours of sleep (although broken since Maren is up at night).  I use my time well and eat nourishing foods.  Tim gets up at 5 everyday to make sure he has time to work out and meditate.  I’m a notorious morning person, but being up at night with Maren turns me into a slightly later morning person and I just.  can’t.  do it.

So today I did Piyo for the first time.  Tim’s been doing it for a month already, and I’m resisting the urge to feel lame.  I did it with a baby crawling beneath me and a toddler climbing my back and another baby grinning like a darling fool at her mama.  Because I have just as much time as the next person, and because no one else is going to make it happen for me.

I started pondering why exactly I felt like I had more energy today.  You know what I realized? Yesterday evening was the first time I have left the house by myself in weeks.  WEEKS.  I went to sell baby clothes at Once Upon a Child.  Thrilling, right?  But being by myself and taking that space was enough to recharge my batteries and make me feel like I could tackle 30 minutes of Piyo today.  The weeks that pass without alone time are the weeks when I feel most drained, resentful, and all around gross about life.

Balancing closeness and space is the key to happiness in every relationship I have–with Tim, with the babies, with family, and even with myself.  

The closeness (mental and physical) I have with my littles all day everyday becomes suffocating and taxing if I don’t intentionally take mental space (by blogging or talking to Angela for an hour) or physical space (by going grocery shopping or errand running, which my midwife tells me is NOT space, but it’s the best I can do most of the time) and it becomes damaging to my relationship with them because I am an annoyed, frustrated, tired mama.  It’s impossible for me to appreciate them as my own tiny humans and to enjoy them where they are in this minute when I feel like that.  I know I need to take space to balance the closeness.

The copious amount of space between me and Tim after teaching, lesson planning, baby bedtimes, home renovating, housekeeping, grading, and other lifey stuff has commenced makes it hard to feel close to each other.  Add to that our attempt to live on half an income while he student teaches and you end up with dateless, far apart people trying to remember how to keep things fun and loving.  Part of the motivation behind minimizing our belongings and habits was founded in attempting to carve out more down time for the grown ups.  We’re doing a pretty good job these days, if I do say so myself, but I won’t pretend it is effortless.  We know we have to create closeness to balance the space.

We moved to Lafayette because Tim needed to be closer to his family and I would not entertain monthly trips 4 hours each way from Bloomington with Silas (and now Maren, since she also despises the car).  We are moving again because I need to be closer to my “people” who make things easier when they are hard, and also because I need more space for our family unit as we are now.  Tim needs to feel like he has some rugged terrain and like minded souls to feel connected.  The decision becomes easier when we identify what we are missing, because it tells us what we need.

Another factor in moving is my own:  I have an 80/20 problem when living too near or too far from my family.  I have 80% negative emotions and 20% positive in either situation.  I have lived across town and across the world (literally) from my family.  We have commentary running in both families about not moving at all, or about moving closer to one side or the other.  We have people far, far away beckoning us to move to their neck of the woods, and I’d be lying if I said it isn’t enticing.  It’s hard to feel like we have to defend our choices when they don’t make sense to other people, but it’s nice to know that you all like us enough to want us nearby.

My family relationships are most loving, supporting and enjoyable when we live a few hours away.  This gives us time and space to be our own family of four (which has been a constant struggle since our weekends fill up so quickly with commitments) while still allowing our kids to have childhoods full of memories with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and all the other important people Tim and I grew up with.  The priority of our kids’ relationships with family trumps all else.  Any by all else, I mean my desire to move to Seattle or Portland and Tim’s desire to move to Denver.  We will live in those places later in life, but when we are a young family, Midwest is best for us.

The final closeness/space balance that is out of whack for me since getting married (!) is the relationship I have with myself.  As a natural and somewhat severe introvert, sharing an abode with Tim brought about a challenge I hadn’t experienced before despite lots of roommates.  I all of a sudden found it very hard to find time to be by myself.  Most of that came from the fact that we both worked in the same school system, so we had the same commute, the same hours, the same holidays and vacations.  It wasn’t long before our routine was established and alone time wasn’t involved.  And as newlyweds, we were ok with that, but as time progresses and careers change, we each need things we don’t get from each other.  Home renovation followed newlywed mode, and babies followed that.  Life just keeps moving and changing.

The biggest thing missing for me is a meditation practice and a physical activity practice, which could be combined into a walking meditation habit of sorts like I used to have.  Even typing that makes my brain freak out and say “but I don’t have time to meditate and I’ll be lucky to do three days of Piyo in a row!” and my rational brain quickly follows it up with the reality that we make time for the things that we prioritize.  We all get the same number of hours.  Life is very fair that way.

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