Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Fulfillment Project says YES

The last few weeks have made me think about the person I used to be. Sometimes I feel like the fun police, cleaning out refrigerators and giving out check marks. I've become the rule enforcer in our family. I'm the one who, upon hearing shrieks of laughter emanating from the basement, yells, "What's going on down there?!?" I'm the one who worries about biking too fast down streets coated with slippery leaves, consuming adequate amounts of vegetables, paying the bills and whether or not chores have been completed.

Basically, I'm worried that I'm no fun.

And the thing is, I used to be a lot of fun. I was the person who moved to France on a whim, who rode through Thailand on the back of a motorcycle piloted by an Israeli guy I met while swimming in the River Kwai. I came up with the idea of wearing nothing but red tape to a Halloween party. I was the one who wrote a law review article on prostitution rings, conducting my interviews in person, thereby breaking the spoken rule of pimps about talking to outsiders and the unspoken rule of law reviews, requiring everything they publish to be deadly boring.

Way back when, I was the kind of person who hated rules and conventionality. I was passionate about everything. That passion led me to do things like enroll myself at an all black college for a semester so I could learn what it felt like to be the only white face in a sea of brown. It was a different kind of education. One that taught me, not only to be more aware of my world, but also all the lyrics to Black Pussy, DJ Quik's infamous contribution to the modern rap catalogue. 

So what happened to that person? Where did she go?
I think she started to slip away just about the same time Child #1 came along. Child #1 came into the world with a bang (which if you knew her, wouldn't surprise you). But it surprised me. It made me realize how fragile life can be and with that realization came the worry.
When Child #2 came into the picture, the worry expanded to encompass the newest member of our family and, like an unwelcome house guest, has never left.

There are days that I find myself so completely in its grip that I will suddenly, in the middle of the day, try to remember what my children wore to school. You know...just in case. Sometimes, when they are doing something realtively safe, like dancing outside on the deck or jumping off the third stair I find myself inventing scenarios. What if the deck collapses? What if one of them lands wrong and breaks an ankle? Or even worse, what if they do a duck and roll that causes permanent injury to their spine? What if an earthquake hits and this moment, the one we're in right now is our very last together. What if, what if, what if?

I know these fears aren't rational, but it doesn't mean they aren't real. They cling to my life, like little barnacles, sucking out the joy and fulfillment and replacing it with constant scrutiny.

I'm always on guard.

I can't live on the edge because I'm too busy making sure no one goes over the edge. So, what if I replace my usual brand of what ifs with something else?

My whole life used to be one long series of Yeses. In fact, my only fear was that I might miss out on something. I wanted to say yes because I knew life was short. I knew that sometimes you only get one chance to do something and I never wanted to look back and wish I'd taken advantage of some mysterious opportunity. When I think about it, the job offer to teach aerobics in French at an island Club Med is probably the only job I ever turned down. And to this day I wonder what it would have been like.

It boils down to this. How can I rediscover all the joie de vivre that used to be my default position? What if I spend a week saying yes? Not no, I'll consider it, absolutely not, please don't bother me while I'm working, after you finish your homework, all those typical responses that seem to flow out of my mouth these days. What if all I say is YES?


T. L. Cooper said...

I think maybe we should all consider say yes more often... OTOH, we can wear ourselves too thin by always saying yes. There is a fine line between inviting opportunity in to our lives and taking on too much!
Can't wait to hear how saying yes goes for you!!

Alison DeLuca said...

This is my life! How did I go from hosteling around Europe to attending PTA meetings? Wasn't I in a Paris cafe on the Left Bank just yesterday, arguing literature with an Algerian fellow?

Nicole Antonia Carson said...

THAT would be the weekend for the kids to ask
1. for a dog
2. for a drum set and lessons
3. for a trip to Disneyland

Tonja said...

Someone will get their eye poked out or crack their head open, and you'll spend the rest of your life feeling guilty. Just kidding, not really. It's the kind of mom you are (me too).

When your kids get older (like 20 not 15), it will ease up. At least that's what I hope. Don't worry about being worried. Just take joy in moments - lots of them.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Try a whole day first. Once the kids catch on, it will be a free-for-all and a week might be too long.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I was never wild and radical as a kid. I'm even more conservative now as an adult. However, since I don't have kids, I have freedom to act up whenever the mood hits me.
Go for a week! What's the worst that could happen?

Johanna Garth said...

TL, that's exactly what I'm trying to figure out. Where is the line?

Allie, I'm just hoping no one on the PTA reads my blog!

Nicole, shh! Don't tell them.

Tonja, I may need to self-medicate to get me thru the next week.

Diane, I like that approach!

Alex, I think you might have inspired another blog post about freedom.

Sarah Tokeley said...

This post really struck a chord with me. In my youth I did some insane, crazy, potentially dangerous wonderful things. Now I live in fear that my daughters will do similar things, yet I want the younger me back.

The Bookworm said...

Being a mom changes us all, for the better I think.
Oh my about your law review article on prostitution rings, sounds interesting!
It's hard for me to say YES also, then I feel very guilty and feel like I'm a boring old lady! lol

But then again, I'm the kind of mom who plays on the swings with my kids, jumps in the trampoline, dresses up with them on Halloween, dances around the house and rides on the rollercoasters with them.
I think it's all about finding balance :)

Shelly I said...

Sometimes you have to shove hard to make the pendulum swing. Saying Yes to everything for a week is not forever--it's just long enough for you to remember in your bones what it's like to let go of anxiety and live more adventures, large or small. Good for you, Johanna! May your Yes's bring you joy.