I’m going through a huge life change right now awaiting the birth of my second daughter in January. Many things are different this time. With my first daughter I was eighteen and to things were very rocky. But I was delighted to be carrying this little person who I would love and receive love from unconditionally. I just didn’t feel like I had that anywhere else in my life. These days, I feel like I’m prepared to give a lot more but paradoxically also a whole lot more stuck in my head. With my first daughter, I was too young too really worry about being a good parent.
This time around I’ve already started thinking about school options! The truth is that I really want to be perfect. And I know that the attempt to be perfect robs us of who we really are. It makes us inauthentic to ourselves and others. We become rigid, unable to admit mistakes but tirelessly beating ourselves up over them. Thinking about asking for help is unimaginable. We don’t know what we really want anymore, because we just have to be perfect. Reading simplicity books like The Power of Less and Walden on Wheels has helped me understand how important clarity is.
My life has been a struggle between what I thought I ought to be doing and accomplishing and what I actually wanted. This occurred because I came to associate things like a good career, college degrees, etc. with being “normal” instead of the agony of being “bipolar.” When you are given a label such as “bipolar” doctors and therapists think they are being helpful by giving you a simple yardstick: are you able to achieve a “normal” and “functional” life? No one ever considers that the yardstick, the cultural norms, may be a huge part of the problem for some folks.
And when I did pursue things like advanced degrees, I did so with the overriding desire to achieve perfect grades. Learning was/is secondary. I was damn well going to prove I could achieve that yardstick. But over the past couple years, since I started reading about simplicity and since my husband had an affair, I began to realize that pursuing the yardstick isn’t for me. It was amazing and very sad sometimes to realize things that I had felt so torn about and invested so much energy in just weren’t important to me. At all. So in the bigger picture sense, I did have some understanding of what I did and did not want in my life.
I became more flexible. If I felt like my school classes were getting in the way of family or my own happiness, I would drop down to one. I felt completely comfortable with my choice, where before I would feel lazy and guilty. I did some volunteering for the first time. My husband and I decided to buy a modest home. And now I’m pregnant! And the only problem is, while I might feel like I have the larger picture in mind, I still feel like I’m floundering day to day.
I’m having a hard time connecting where I want to go with the small actions I need to do every day to get there. I don’t like goals. I find that for myself goals can be problematic because I set myself on this course I determined some time ago. It then becomes about achieving the goal, and I might not realize that things have changed and the goal is no longer as important to me. Or maybe it’s not important at all! After reading The Power of Less I realized that my master’s degree just isn’t very important to me. Luckily I’m on the last class but some days it just feels wrong to be putting so much time and energy into it.
These days Leo Babauta, author of The Power of Less, doesn’t set goals. According to his blog, he just does what he wants to do every day and it gets him to where he wants to be. Right now I’m having a hard time grasping this. And yet I feel like it’s so important to learn to listen inside to what I really need and want before baby #2 arrives.