A Lifetime of Lessons Packed Into Two Tiny Years

Ellie is turning two on Monday, which is both mind-boggling and heartwarming.  Everyone told me the days would be long, but the years would be short…but I didn’t fully understand until now, how loooooong those days would be, and how shoooooort these years would end up feeling.

And because the days are so long and the years are so short, it is rare that I let my mind wander.  Yes, I think, in fact, I think all the time…problem solving like a master of puzzle putter togetherer...if I do this at this time, then I will be able to bring Ellie here at this time, and I’ll make it home in time for the diapers.com delivery…if I move my meeting here, and have the nanny bring her there, then I can meet them at the doctor’s office for her two year check up, and not miss anything anywhere… 

Before I had Ellie I used to think I was terrible at algebra and geometry, and now that I am a mom, I realize being a mom is algebra and geometry and calculus and physics, all day, every day.  And for that reason, my mind rarely wanders…

But the other day, it did.  I was walking to a friend’s apartment after going to a screening of Zero Dark Thirty for work, which, by the way, is perhaps one of the best movies I have ever seen.  It’s about the set of events that led to killing Bin Laden, and focuses on the woman behind it all, and I walked out of the screening feeling like I could conquer the world.  But when I was heading into the screening I had an entirely different set of feelings, when I was squeezed in a cab, sandwiched between two men I work with – one who happens to be and extremely talented and well-known war correspondent and the other a friend and co-worker, who happens to be the son of a single mom much like myself. 

And as I was sitting there, trying to send of 15 emails in 10 minutes to tie up the lose ends on upcoming shoots, so that when I sat down in the theater I could actually focus on the movie, I simultaneously started thinking about the laundry list of things I needed to get done before Ellie’s birthday party this weekend. 

And I started to sweat. 

So I unzipped my black coat and noticed that there was dried breast milk on the inside of the coat.  And if a breast milk stained coat were not entertaining enough, here is something for you – I didn’t nurse Ellie last winter.  The last time it was winter and my breasts were lactating was TWO winters ago.  2 years this coat had been stained, and I just noticed, while sandwiched between two men who were very likely not thinking about children’s birthday parties or breast milk…and I had one of those moments where you ask yourself, HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE?  

And even while I was watching the movie in a room full of journalists, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head…how did I get here?  How did I get here?  How did I get HERE

After the screening, we headed back up to the office, I finished up some work and I sprinted out of there, so that I could make it to my friend’s apartment in time to meet the nanny who be returning my child to me, so Ellie could have a playdate and I could have some adult conversation past 6:30pm.  And on that walk from the office to my friend’s place, my mind started to wander. 

For the first time since Ellie was born I allowed myself to wonder what would have happened if life took a different turn.  If I never got pregnant, where would I be?  More importantly WHO would I be?  Would I be traveling around the world, covering stories, able to leap at a moment’s notice?  Would I still be in news? Would I be married?  Would I be as happy as I am now?  Or would I be chasing an unfulfilling goal?

And I came up with a firm – I have no f*cking clue. 

But here is what I do know…I have learned more in the two years since Ellie was born than I ever thought humanly possible.  Before she arrived, I was living in a world that I thought included a full spectrum of emotions, but pre-Ellie those emotions only spanned from 0 – 10…now the range is zero to a thousand.  I feel life more acutely, I feel others pain, along with their struggles and triumphs with more empathy and more understanding than I ever thought possible. 

I learned that being a mom means that I constantly feel like I am living two lives, which at times feel like they are parallel and will never intersect.  The “professional” me with make up, fairly clean clothing, and clearly articulated thoughts and ideas, juxtaposed with the “nursery rhyme singing and dancing mom” me, who has been wearing yoga pants for two years, yet hasn’t attended a yoga class in three.  I learned I will constantly be shocked that they are the same person, and that they can be the same person, and that most importantly – that one does not cancel out the other, at all.

I learned I have no time for assh*les.  And I don’t mean the obvious ones, I mean the little nudgey, time suckers, and manipulators that just cast a veil of blah over your day…those people…I have no time for.  I have a child to raise, a house to run, a family to love and a career to manage – and nowhere in there is time for losers.  It’s amazing how useful Spotify or iTunes and a pair of earphones can be. 

I learned that I can’t have it all.  That the mere idea of having it all is complete and total bullsh*t.  Some days I can have shaved legs, other days I can stay late at work, other days I can put up Christmas lights or make it home in time to pick Ellie up from school, but I can not have all of those things on the same day.  It just is the way it is.  It is hard.  But that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

I learned the true meaning of friendship and family.  Without fail, just when I feel like the entire deck of cards is going to come crashing down on top of me, and this entire operation is going to fall apart, someone emails me and asks what they can do to help me with the party, or if I need help watching Ellie over the next few weeks so I can go to a holiday get together, or a friend at the office tells me out of nowhere what a good job they think I am doing – at life, not just at work.

I learned that there are zero certainties in life, and the days without stitches, trips to the ER, projectile vomit, crisis at the office, illness and overdrawn bank accounts are to be cherished.  There is no way to predict the future and no way to change the past.  2 years ago today, I was extremely pregnant, and extremely scared…I felt like I was staring off into the abyss.  I had absolutely no idea what the future held.  Nothing felt certain, and it shook me to my core.  That core shaking changed me.

Today, I sit here while my almost two-year-old sleeps, and I still have absolutely no idea what the future holds.  That is one of life’s little secrets, no matter how much we try to control things, none of us really knows what the outcome will be.  But instead of feeling like I am staring into a scary, vast, empty space, I feel free and invigorated. 

I still have absolutely no idea what the future holds, but it’s not a terrifying abyss – it’s a clean, blank slate. 

And that’s okay, because I love it.