Two days before we flew to North Carolina for Christmas, I was a sniveling, sad mess. Our dear friends had visited us — one of whom I’ve known for more than 20 years — and we had said our goodbyes, which left me feeling oddly bereft.
Earlier that day, we went to the Los Angeles zoo — me and the three boys; my friends and their 3-year-old daughter — and I pushed it with L., who was yawning on the ride down. I knew I was tempting fate (never mess with a 2-year-old’s nap), but I didn’t know he’d turn quickly into a bellowing terror. He was a screaming tyrant by the time we were saying “hi” to the gorillas, throwing apples with tremendous force, thrashing his body around and running away from me. I blocked out the side-eye glances from the other spectators, but all of my energy seeped out of my body.
By that evening, I felt wrecked. It didn’t help that I hadn’t run in three weeks or that I wasn’t eating well and had gained a few pounds. It didn’t help that I drank one too many the night before, which is rare for me now. It didn’t help that I was anxious about showing our friends a good time and that I felt sad when they left because I miss banter with people who get me. It didn’t help that I had seen their happiness and realized I was missing mine.
I broke down and wet A.’s chest with my tears. I was sad. Depleted. Exhausted. Uninspired. Lonely. (A. said, “Remember when we had one kid? Life was easier.”)
The meltdown was enough to nudge me into action, and start with the basics, which often get ignored when you’re a mom — especially a mom of three under 7. These are things I always did naturally, but now I have to prioritize.
1. Exercise. This is now my priority above all else — exercise eases my stress and makes me a better mom. It’s my foundation for happiness. I’ve signed up for the San Luis Obispo half marathon at the end of April. Also, I plan to get to some yoga and practice weight training at home.
2. Coffee. I have noticed that if I have more than two coffees, I’m a grump. So my plan is to dial it back to two, no matter how tired I am late in the day. I’m also looking into other fun drinks to replace my habit.
3. Writing. I plan to carve out more time for writing this year as well as reading great writing and finding author talks, which always inspires me.
4. Friends and Community. I’m still figuring out how to tackle this one, because I want more local friends who are positive and inspiring (it’s been hard to find here), and a stronger community vibe. I’ve joined the PTA board, but I need to find another outlet. Indoor soccer? Volunteering? We’ll see.
5. The Arts. New music, new art, great books. These are the things that fill me and feed me. Two places I plan to visit this year are The Getty and The Broad museums. Speaking of — what has inspired you lately?
I know I have to give myself a break — I’ve been in a seven-year fog of either pregnant, baby or toddler soaking up all of my time and demanding more of me than I ever imagined. Now it’s time for me to reclaim my time, for me. This also means not letting social media overtake my mind. No more, “Wait, why did I get on my computer,” or, “Ugh, where did the last 30 minutes go?”
More reading. More healthy cooking. More listening to new music. More exploring. More making friends with people who are excited about life. Because life is beautiful.