Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

Dear Friends,

Well, a remarkable occurrence has...occurred. My household, really the family in it, was entirely peaceful these past two weeks. And yes, I do mean my family (no, it wasn't a visiting or housesitting family that was peaceful here; although I dare say with all of this good energy overflowing, it could last for a very long time and have a lingering effect on all who enter this serene dwelling).

You see, I have been cast in a play. A musical, actually. And, my request to assist the director has also been granted. And heck, for icing on the cake, I get to be the rehearsal stand-in for the lead for two weeks.

To say I am excited is an understatement. I am thrilled. Enlivened. I actually feel like I am getting my life back.

Let me first set a few things straight: I LOVE being a mother. It fulfills a powerful need and desire in myself to nurture and grow and discover life with these two tender-hearted beings, Logan and Paige. I have never known such deep joy and expansive love before having children. And I love my husband wholeheartedly and more deeply than ever; the gift of our children as an outgrowth of our love is a phenomenally beautiful and indescribable bond that forms our family. I am profoundly blessed.

Okay. That said, may I attempt to describe the labor that motherhood calls for, which immediately follows--and extends for years beyond--the initial childbirthing-type of labor? I'm talking about the all-consuming, 100 percent giving of yourself, you-are-entirely-responsible-for-another-human-being (or two, or more) kind of immersive experience here. You nurse and nurture and feed and hold and comfort and love these babies, who verrrrrrrry gradually start to become surprisingly independent beings. Time stops. Five years pass.  You come up for air, look around, and you see: two young people feeding themselves! Two young people using the toilet! Two young people riding off in the van with Daddy for a trip to the park while you get ready for an audition!

Yep, I dusted off my performance resume a few weeks ago, got a shower, and had two hands free to put on make-up and curl my hair; I even painted my nails neatly with one dark color (rather than two different pastels, tenderly and adorably messily applied by two toddlers on each hand--which I secretly prefer because it's a sweet reminder of how much fun we have together!).

The draw to audition and perform (which are really the same thing--every audition is a performance opportunity, as most of you would agree), nearly defies description as well. For me, it is a yearning, a hunger, a passion that needs to be fulfilled. I have almost entirely held this passion at bay for the past five years, in order to prioritize childrearing, with a few fun exceptions: I played Charlotte, the spider; I had a principle role in an independent film; I was vocal director for Wild Swan's Christmas Carol (twice). I have also done some private coaching and teaching, but primarily my focus has been on full-time mommying. And I wouldn't change a thing in these past five years! My children are healthy, happy, connected...and now may I add exceptionally peaceful?

It turns out you can ignore Mama's needs only so long. 'Cuz when Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Unbeknownst to me (alright, my unconscious mind already had it figured out, I just had to tune in), I had grown increasingly irritable, agitated, impatient--well, you get the picture--over I'd say, the past year. I thought it was due to inevitable stresses of parenting two children, and dealing with natural sibling jealousy and frankly pretty minor disputes (squabbles over toys being the big recurring theme there). Just all of these challenging aspects of daily life had been building up and bugging me more and more over the last year or so. I chalked it up to "that's just the way it is" and figured I can just muscle through it.

Then, I got a call to come to a callback audition at Jewish Ensemble Theater for the role of a model. Long story short, the entire family pulled together to make it happen. I got there, did it (hey, just like riding a bike!), and afterwards felt...different. Alive. I had awakened a dormant part of me. And I discovered: I AM READY TO RETURN TO THE STAGE. I felt beautiful and capable and strong and empowered and joyful and peaceful!

When the auditions came up soon after for Damn Yankees, my first thought was, "Well, nope, too bad I can't go, but that's just the way it is right now...." And then my inner voice said, "Hey! You're going! You can do this! It's time!" Ben lovingly agreed to help make not only the audition, but also the show work, should I get cast.

Flash forward to getting the message from the theater's Associate Artistic Director inviting me to be part of the production, in the ways I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Wow. I mean, WOW! I felt instantly transformed into this cool, relaxed, Zen, in-the-zone, fully present, peaceful person. I've had lots of moments like this, days even, but soon thereafter I'd find myself grouchy and easily irritated again. What I've discovered now is I am happier not only as I prepare for the show, but also in my parenting. I'm this chill mom, and the amazing result? So are Logan and Paige.

Now, as I said, no sibling issues were ever quite awful or intense, but there were at least daily frictions and chafing and territory concerns, etc. However, in the past two weeks, there has been not a single dispute, irritable word or deed, among anyone in the entire family. I am kind of pleasantly stunned. I mean, I knew in theory that children are highly attuned to parents' (particularly the primary caregiver's, which of course in our family means Mama's) emotions. But, man, it's true!

I realize I had been attributing my annoyances and negative vibes to external sources, but it actually comes right down to me and my attitude. Breaking news, right? Of course not! But I have to share with you that to finally experience continuous peace and to feel it flow through my Self and my family is delightful, uplifting, and something I want to hold onto (or more precisely, perennially release) for a good, long time. In fact, let's stay here, in this exqusite state I'll call Zen. Because now I have the best of both worlds: family-focused Mommy and capable, passionate performer with so many gifts to share.

So look out, theater world: I'm back, and I'm staying!

Of course, I am going to need lots of encouragement and support (and childcare) from you friends to pull this off. Because I know when I look at those two angelic, peaceful, dear faces, it may be difficult to leave the house for rehearsals some days. But I need to remember the reason there is such peace and joy flowing right now through our family: I have hope, I am living out my passions, and I am, after all, the hub of this family. So naturally the flip side of "If Mama ain't happy..." is "When Mama is happy--and her needs are also being met--this is a very, very great place to be." So, come on over, and come see the show, and feel the love.

1 comment:

  1. I am so happy and excited for you, my beautiful adventurous Carrie! Thank you for writing this exquisite invitation to join you in your joy of rediscovery! A little Zen, a little hope, a whole lot of wonders to unfold!
    Love you!