Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Real-time Recovery

Today was a great lesson/reminder about one of the realities being a full-time dad: I do not have the luxury of going off by myself to spend 20 or 30 minutes recovering from a rough start to the day. I was in the midst of writing a blog post and was deep in thought. On top of that, I have a cold and am exhausted despite getting nearly seven hours of sleep for the last three of four nights in a row (more like nine hours last night). So when I heard Mary Jane's footsteps I went straight into reactivity…"No! Not again!" But as much as my mind was screaming "No!" there stood Mary Jane, wide awake and in a happy disposition <curveball #1). I was able to get her to take a shower with mommy about 20 minutes later and so, I thought, I would have a little time to finish up my blog post. And then I heard Rebekah rustling and cooing over the monitor <curveball #2>. So much for that idea!

When I picked Rebekah up I found that she had pooped so I had to both change her diaper and, since we now use cloth diapers, spray the poop out of it <curveball #3>. By the time I was done spraying the diaper Maaike was nearly ready to go. And so yet another day begins without me getting to finish my blog post...or do email...or…

To say the least, I was quite upset about the morning not starting "right." A fact that pissed me off because I am working on accepting reality as it comes (read: "I should have perfected accepting reality as it comes" by now). But there was no time to deal with my piss-off (or so my mind was telling me) because it is already after 7 am and we have to be at the doctor's office at 9:30. And then we go straight to Target for Mary Jane to make her first purchase with money she earned. So I stuffed my feelings down as best I could and worked hard at being calm and loving and caring and not PISSED-OFF! All-in-all I did pretty well with it...but it is exhausting to work that hard at suppressing my feelings.

Mary Jane did a great job waiting at the doctor's office and being patient as I calmed Rebekah and gave her a bottle after receiving her shots. Then it was off to Target. We went straight to the Barbie doll area so Mary Jane could pick out her Barbie and then went up to the front for her to pay for it. As a special treat we then went into Starbucks and opened the Barbie so she could play with it while we did the rest of our Target shopping. Again, Mary Jane and Rebekah both did very well. And still, it was getting harder and harder for me to contain the building pressure and frustration as the morning went on and I began to get tired <curveball #4> and as MJ began to reach the end of her patience with being at Target <curveball #5>.

Of course, Mary Jane's focus was on getting home so we could "play dollies" with her new Barbie. And when we finally did get home, that is all I heard about from her. "Can we play dollies?" "Let's play dollies, daddy!" "Daddy, play dollies!" <curveballs #6, 7, and 8 or more…> Of course, from a clearer perspective it is obvious that Mary Jane was simply very excited about her new Barbie and she wanted me to play with her and her new Barbie...but that wasn't so obvious to me at the time because I was too focused on containing my piss-off. Now, it just so happens that Rebekah is in the midst of a growth spurt so she is very hungry and very tired. So while Mary Jane is trying to get me to play dollies I am trying to make us lunch and tend to a hungry, overly tired 5 month old <curveball #9>...oh yeah, we think she is about ready to cut her first tooth, too <curveball #...well, you get the idea>. ...and the pressure builds.

The icing on the cake is that the more reactive (short and obviously frustrated) I became, the more Mary Jane and Rebekah would follow suit. Round and round we went building on each others' reactivity and agitation. I cannot recall what exactly it was that woke me up to what was going on. What I do know is that I suddenly realized that much of the frustration and many of the little battles from the day were largely due to me not recovering from the way the morning began.

Like it or not, the reality is that in day to day life I do not often have time to go off and figure out why I am being so reactive. What I can do, however, is choose to recover in real-time. I can choose to stop long enough to take some breath and to notice my reactivity and then to choose my next step. Some days I may need to do this several times and others not at all. Either way, what I am seeing is that I always have the choice to recover and I also have the knowledge and ability to do so. And the good news is, it is never to late to recover and start fresh. After all, each minute is a fresh start.