This has been an amazing week. I have been feeling so happy being home with Daniel. Happy ... is that the right word? Content. Overflowing with love and excitement about being such an instrumental part of this little boy's life. Looking forward to what's ahead for him, for our family. I don't know what triggered it because last week I was in a funk about having stepped so far out of the career world, wondering if I would ever feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with winning awards and nailing major projects, wondering if I'll ever get this freelance thing off the ground to a point where I'm consistently doing work I'm proud of. Suddenly, this week, it's as if the sense of accomplishment is coming from somewhere else, inside me.
We walked through the College of St. Catherine campus today, as we do many days, to look at the ducks in the pond, and we saw a white heron, with a long, snaking neck, wading in the shallow edges and catching little minnows. It was mesmerizing to watch its sinewy movements, and Daniel was staring and grinning and kept letting out his big call of excitement ("ayyy!"), the same one he belts out when he sees other things that are precious to him — his daddy when he comes home from work, the pottery bunny on our bookshelf, the glossy Arts and Crafts tiles that hang at the end of our hallway, upon which he has gazed with adoration since he was three or four months old. So we're watching the heron, and I see other people walking around the campus, busy with their lives, going to reunions and conferences and jobs, and I am holding Daniel closely and already acutely aware of how much I will miss these moments when he is this young, still a baby, and I am just hit by this inner voice that says, "I am in the perfect place in my life right now."
I used to encounter a lot of middle-aged people in my job. I covered talks by fascinating people like Joan Chittister and Helen Prejean. Conferences on Celtic spirituality. Workshops on lectio divino, centering prayer, simple living. I get into that stuff, actually. I find it interesting and enriching. When I first moved here and started covering the church, I thought I had hit the jackpot. I knew God had sent me in the right direction. But it aged me, too. Young people typically do not go to these religious events. It's the midlifers, who wear comfortable sweaters over turtlenecks and Birkenstocks and talk about their teenage children and laugh knowingly about things I don't understand yet and still simmer about women's ordination even though by now they've mostly justified why they stay in the church anyway. I took so much from the speakers and conferences and workshops, but I started to feel like the middle-aged people who attended them. After too much spirituality, especially when I first started working for the paper, I sometimes found myself needing to go to bars and drink flirty cocktails and watch Sex and the City, just to tip the seesaw the other way.
So today, we walked past a lot of middle-aged women on the campus, and they reminded me. Memories of myself at those events washed over me, but suddenly it crystallized in my mind that I am still young, that even if technically I am approaching middle age, I am a young mother, and I have many years of being a young mother ahead of me, and I should embrace them because I will have plenty of years to be a middle-aged woman (hopefully fabulous and wise) when that time comes. I looked at myself through their eyes, which saw the young mother and her baby in the stroller and conveyed, "We've been there already. It goes fast, so enjoy yourself."
So I've been going to play groups and making friends with other moms and going with Daniel and Stephen to Music Together classes and kissing my son until he giggles. The world is his to discover, and he's exploring it with a ferocity that astonishes me. I'm relishing in it, this week. I've found that when I am truly present to the moment I am in (which is not always easy for me), I feel as if there's no place I'd rather be, nothing else I'd rather be doing, than just watching and loving and nurturing this happy, smart, adventurous little child. And, yes, maybe trying to make another one. I told Steve on Wednesday that I am having one of those weeks where I want another baby ... just because I feel like I have so much more love to give — and energy, too. I'm not as tired as I was in those first few months. Even though I'm chasing Daniel around a lot more, I feel as if I could possible manage another one without it totally depleting me.
And maybe it's OK if I don't have a career plan nailed down. That all my size 4 work clothes from before I was pregnant have gone to charity or consignment shops. That I go out every day dressed like in my capri pants (which I read somewhere are the "new mommy jeans"), and that I don't have intellectually stimulating conversations about world issues when I stop for coffee, and that my belly still resembles a bassett hound's droopy, wrinkly face. That the highlight of my "work day" sometimes dancing around the room with Daniel, singing songs from his Music Together CD. All of this is OK. I am loving it. When I am right here in the moment, it is exactly what I want to do right now. I am in the perfect place in my life.