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The best piece of parenting advice I've received to date, I got from my best friend, Laura: "Don't ever get attached to ANYTHING," she told me. "Once you have a baby, your life becomes a spiral--as soon as you make a little forward progress, you naturally start to spin backward. You gotta realize it's all part of the process."
Wise words from a wise woman. I find that idea profoundly beautiful, and very comforting when it feels that nothing is going well. Which, lately, feels like a lot of the time.
My life before Truman was relatively linear: I got older, my jobs got better, my salaries increased, got married, bought a house, learned to cook, signed up for yoga classes, accumulated an art collection, etc. Life had its setbacks--some big ones, even. But mostly it was pretty simple. I moved forward, I made progress, I achieved things. If I gained a few pounds, I just made a little extra effort to exercise regularly and--poof--they disappeared.
Truman, however, is not so goal-oriented. He refuses to, say, consistently reach for the brass ring of a full night's sleep; he does great one night, the next he's up three times (still!) Likewise, he's iffy on the daily food plan. Sometimes, he eats like a horse (good boy!); others, he'll barely touch a morsel (please! I'm begging!). One day he's a peace-loving, happy, cooperative angel who's learning to play well with others; the next he's an obstinate, screaming, willful devil. (In other words, he's a toddler.)
The minute I think we've reached a milestone--made some progress on something, anything--we're on that backward spin again.
Baby's helical way of being apparently spills over into other parts of mommy's life, too. I now spend as much time sliding backward as I do moving forward on every front: work, housekeeping, diet, exercise, health, happiness, you name it. As soon as I make any kind of headway--slip! slide!--where was I? (I jokingly call this process "Hillari retrograde.")
For instance, for weeks at a time, I can make very good progress with my workouts. I'll talk to my trainer, LaReine Chabut, and with her encouragement, I'll feel energized and inspired. I'll get to the YMCA on a regular basis, spending plenty of time on the elliptical trainer, burning calories, lubricating my body. Then I'll move on to LaReine's super-efficient pound-blasting weights workout, and with surprisingly little effort see pretty nice results--some tone, definition. I'll feel thinner, healthier, better, stronger.
But then, the inevitable regression--the baby sitter will go on vacation, the plumbing will break, work will become super busy, Truman will get sick, or, worse, I will.
That's where I am right now, riddled with migraine headaches that seem to be defying any sort of treatment. It's been a few weeks since I've made it to the gym; I've been laid up on the couch suffering from either debilitating migraines or the side effects of treatment for debilitating migraines (on my menu: Topamax, Zanaflex, Maxalt, Frova--yum, yum!).
Pretty much ALL of my energy is channeled into simply getting through the day, though I've made it clear to my neurologist that I'm aiming higher than mere subsistence. Aren't we all? It is possible to get a happy, energetic life back, the neurologist assures me; patience is needed as dosages are tinkered with. I tell this to my pal Laura, and she just smiles. "You're always on the right path, even when it feels like you're going in reverse," she says. "All you can do is keep on going."
So I'm trying to relax, chill out, and "go" with the down time, knowing that it's likely that this too shall pass. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying some great snuggle time with Truman, and learning to love Baby Einstein videos. The spiral will spin and soon enough I'll be on the upside--having learned important lessons about my neighborhood, farm animals, and things that go on rails, land, sea, and air!
Hillari Dowdle, a.k.a. "Couching Tiger," is picture here with her son, "Den Dragon."