February 20, 2012

On Presence, Practice and Pooping Out Unicorns

 Image comes from here and used with Creative Commons license.

 A few months after her second child was born, a friend's doctor told her she could get more sleep if she went to bed when her daughter did at 7:30 p.m.

"Yeah, lady. And why don't you go poop out a unicorn?" she wrote on her Facebook page.

Since I read her post, I haven't been able to get that phrase out of my head.

It's especially helpful when someone gives well-meaning advice that might seem doable to them, but seems totally impossible to me. Like when someone asks me why we don't just put Willa in the crib and let her fall asleep on her own? Or, when someone tells me I just need to make time for myself.

Or, more frequently, when someone tells me to relish every single moment when my kids are little because before you know it, they're all grown up.

I'd love to relish, really I would. But, sometimes, I'm too exhausted to relish. And, you know what? Telling me I should relish just makes me feel even more guilty than I already do about my lack of relishing. 

So, to the rescue, comes Paige's mantra:
Yeah. And why don't you go poop out a unicorn?

It's been a particularly perfect response as I've been exploring resources on what I'll just call, for now, present parenting. 

I've been really struggling lately with how fractured I've been feeling (which I know I tend to write about a lot. Sorry about that.) 

Don't get me wrong, I love the flexibility I have in my current, work-at-home, stay-at-home, farm-at-farm situation. I can't even remember what my office job felt like these days. No more linear home is at home and, work is at work boundaries for this girl. But, at times, our lives do feel like one big, badly mixed mash up.

And while it works for the most part, I've noticed a certain flabbiness, let's call it, in my ability to be present. I'm always doing something so I can cross it off my to-do list and get to the next thing and then, maybe then, I can be present. But, the to-do list never actually gets finished. So, if I wait for that to be present, then I'm never present at all. And, I'm afraid we're all going to suffer because of it.

So, I have to find someway to find peace amidst the chaos and most importantly, someway to be more focused and present -- for my daughter, my husband, and for myself.

(I'm guessing here, by the way, that no matter if you work outside the home or if you run your own business or, even if you have children or not, this fractured feeling might sound familiar.)

So, I started exploring resources that might give me some strategies or tools in this regard. And, in poking around in the self-help/parenting/spirituality sections, most of what I found just begged to be answered with some permutation of someone, somewhere, pooping out a unicorn.

(How is it that so many books meant to give parents inspiration just end up making a person feel like a terrible parent? In my research, I must have found 10 ways that I've already done major psychic damage to Willa.)

And so it was with perfect timing that I found Paige's wise post and later, that I stumbled across this post from a really good blogger about how to not carpe diem. Besides totally hitting my nail on its head (finally! someone gets the whole relish thing!), the post was a wonderful reminder that life is about practice not perfect. 

If you spend all your time worrying about what you're not doing perfectly, you actually lose the chance to sneak in little moments of perfection. 

And, it's those little bursts that will make the difference. Being "present" is like a muscle. It needs exercise -- not overuse or atrophy -- but maintenance.

(By the way, one of the best bits of advice I got after I became a Mom was from my friend Donna, who told me -- instead of telling me to be totally present every single moment -- to take "snapshots" when my kids were little. Take a few seconds, she said, and make a mental photograph of that moment -- of the smell of their little head, of the smoothness of their skin, of their little sparkly eyes -- and you'll be surprised at how the memories come back later on. And, it also serves a really good way of exercising being present, in little, doable, moments.)

Parenthood -- hell, life really -- is about knowing the difference between what's desirable and what's attainable. Striving for your best, but still accepting yourself when you're not quite there. And for the love of God, understanding that there are some feats that just aren't humanly possible.

I'm now giving myself permission to not carpe diem, and certainly, permission to not poop out any unicorns.

And so far, we're all better off.

After all, ouch.


  1. Thank you so much for writing with such honesty and clarity. I am sitting at my kitchen table feeding a baby with one hand, typing with the other. Working at home, feeling like I am doing everything but none of it really well. I spent the weekend in frustration over my inability to be present and happy, while trying to play barbies AND build a website. Thank you for the reminder that I am not alone. I wish you lived closer so we could have a cocktail/playdate! If you come to Missoula anytime and need a place to stay, let me know!

  2. Okay, so the CAPTCHA on that last comment was "worn-out". hilarious!

  3. Hilarious indeed! I so know the feeling you're describing and here's what I have to say: Carry on, Warrior, carry on.

    And, yes, I would SO love a cocktail/playdate. Shouldn't those always be combined?

  4. Beautiful post and great link. I wish I could tell you that it only lasts a few years, and that life is only this way 'cuz they are so little. But I won't lie to you. My kids are 9, 11, and 15 and everyday is still a speed-race to the finish line with a pile of laundry leftover and the cat spilling a cup of water on a book. Well, on the nights I have the energy to pick up a book. And I wouldn't trade a single day, but I could give up quite a few moments!



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