Alternately titled: Failing at everything.
No, I don’t mean that. I only feel like I mean that. I am fully aware that keeping the kids alive, relatively healthy, and in good spiritual shape is pretty much the summation of my motherly vocation. And I’ve ticked all those boxes (so far) today. But it’s just one of those draaaagging days where late afternoon is upon us and I have relatively little to show for it.
I don’t know exactly what I want to say here, it’s not a complaint rant, but it’s not a silvery-lined breakthrough either. Motherhood is just hard right now. Living here, in a foreign country, being a stay at home mom in a place that very much not home, is far more difficult than I envisioned it would be. And it’s not for the obvious reasons. Yes, I miss American food (however terrible the reputation we’ve garnered, I will go to my death defending our culinary diversity.), but more than that I miss the feeling of doing, of feeling (and of actually being) useful.
Am I useful to my immediate family? Of course. And most essentially so. But I have cooked no meals for newly delivered friends lately. I’ve swapped toddlers with no one. I’ve dropped off donations at zero thrift shops. I’ve not crafted a single attractive piece of decor for my home in 4 + months. And I’ve had zero ability to procure any type of paint, spray or otherwise, with which I might resurface the dirty peach colored walls throughout our home.
All these things I was so accustomed to doing in order to lift my spirits and give my mommy moral a boost are suddenly simply unavailable. Or unattainable. Without a car, without a mega store in range, without an American-sized budget (and import economy) which guarantees readily-available and quality ‘fresh and different’ on demand, I’m at a loss. I am unaccustomed to not being able to manipulate my exterior environment to soothe turmoil in my interior environment. I cannot ‘nest’ here. Or at least, it is challenging and unsatisfying and ultimately, not worth the effort. I cannot buy my way out of a bad day here…especially now that precious baby Bing #3 is on board and the vino train has slowed to a roll.
In short: I’m living very much in reality here. And reality is not entertaining. And it’s not uniformly attractive. I was telling my sister recently that I hate Pinterest now, not because it’s a huge time suck (Facebook is more my style of kryptonite) but because almost every single thing I see on there is impossible or unrealistic. And not for the normal reasons! Like budget or body type. But because oh my gosh, I can’t find coconut flour here, and JCrew doesn’t ship to Italy for a reasonable amount of money. And we live in a 900 sq foot apartment that I cannot craft a pirate alcove/wine cave into a corner of and camouflage it with decorative crown molding and latticework.
I don’t know if this is entirely a bad thing. I am sure, however, that it is deeply uncomfortable. I’ve found pregnancy to be especially disturbing to my equilibrium of vaguely pampered comfort: no gym day care, no bathtubs, no grandparents, no drive-through anythings, no ready made meals (besides the obvious and detestable pizza), and no movie theaters. What’s that? You say there are theaters, that show movies in English on the 4th Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 pm and are easily accessible by 3 connecting buses and one metro? You must be thinking of someone without toddlers and with a spirit of adventure that public transport has yet to strangle.
The very smallest things, materially speaking, have both frustrated me and piqued my gratitude lately. The store had 1 avocado left for only $4 (equivalent) US dollars? Amazing! Buy it, who cares if it’s half brown! All the cleaning sprays I’ve tried in this country smell like suffocating, biohazardous death? Misery! Nightmare! Cue extensive fantasy about Target’s Method brand tangerine-scented everything.
In short: I think I may have been parenting – and living – a bit on the surface, in my former life. And here below the surface, where I’m trying not to drown, life is not comfortable and it is not serene. And we were made for greatness, not for comfort, it’s true…but oh my gosh it’s painful to have that reality imposed on you. I have been wondering for months now what I’m doing here in Italy. I don’t wonder what we’re doing here, because obviously my kids are massively blessed and my husband loves his job and it was the right choice for us, et cetera et cetera…but what am I doing here?
Learning how to stop ‘doing’ and getting a crash course in ‘being,’ I suppose. And it is painful. And boring. And frustrating. And it’s so much harder than measuring a day by productivity and accomplishment. There is nothing to measure. It’s just a collection of moments, of choices, of little sacrifices or angry ‘non-serviums’ that sum up to a grand total of exhaustion by 10 pm. And I have no way of seeing the fruit of it now, because at the end of a day, of every day here, it looks like I’ve done nothing.
I can only presume (and hope) that it’s because He is the one doing all the work.
p.s. so many amazing comments lately. And if I haven’t responded, I promise it’s only because your email isn’t linked to your name, and not because I didn’t read and love what you wrote. Links please!