When the boys were very small — before they could make eye contact or smile or do anything other than eat and poop and cry — we were on our counselor’s couch, and I was a sloppy tearful mess.
Jimmy was struggling to connect to the boys. He couldn’t shake feeling like he needed some kind of sign of appreciation from them, some recognition that he was their father and that he was breaking his back trying to do everything for them.
Every time he would get annoyed with them — sigh heavily when he was feeding them, drift through a succession of mornings and nights in a closed, disconnected state — I got upset.
I didn’t get angry with him so much as it made me feel very sad.
I tried to articulate why to our counselor.
My maternity leave is limited, I told her. I have these three months to get to feel what it’s like to be with them full time, and that’s it. It hurts me deeply knowing all Jimmy wants to do is fast-forward through this time, like he can’t wait for it to be over. This is our life, what we planned for and dreamed of. Wishing any part of it to be over, or to “just get through it,” is very, very far from how I want things to be.
I don’t tell this story to throw Jimmy under the bus; he had what is not an uncommon struggle early on, trying to connect to two little beings who couldn’t really connect back in the way one might envision. When Jimmy realized he had this issue, he didn’t ignore it or hide it. He brought it to the surface, despite being ashamed of it. He faced it head on and did the work to get through it. That’s why he’s an amazing father–not because he’s perfect, but because he’s committed.
I tell this story for a different reason, as a vehicle to explore something that’s been coming up for me lately.
My major goal is all about the future. The bright, golden future. It’s about looking forward with certainty and optimism.
As a result, you could say that, right now, I’m living more in the future than I am in the present.
The other day, for example, Jimmy’s cousin (his age) stopped by randomly with her daughter (not my age, but closer to my age than his cousin is). She expected to find Jimmy at home, but he was out golfing. It was a Thursday. I was at home because my boss had told me not to come in the day after we had that successful mediation.
Confession: I am sort of clueless when it comes to Jimmy’s family. They are very traditional. A young career woman seems to baffle them; a young super ambitious career woman who is the provider in her family and married to their older cousin even more so. I think they can’t quite get their heads around it.
Anyway, she was taken aback that Jimmy was gone and she was left with me instead. She asked me about the new job, in a struggle to make conversation, and I found myself excitedly babbling in response to her otherwise simple question (which she intended only as a pleasantry before making her escape). I told her about the mediation, and how our settlement was tens of millions of dollars, and how our firm’s fee would be one-third of that — and that while right now I’m only a salaried attorney, I was going to be a partner soon, and so soon I’d be receiving a piece of a giant fee like that. I didn’t say it to brag, I said it because with my major goal, my mind is always on it–I’m always striving to stand in that place of optimism and certainty.
She nodded along impatiently with a somewhat condescending look (or what I interpreted to be a somewhat condescending look). She looked at me like I was some silly high school girl jabbering on about a pipe dream as if it were real in a desperate attempt to feel important.
I realized that, from her perspective, I probably sounded a little ridiculous. Jimmy had devoted his life to being an alcohol counselor; he is a heart-centered person who never prioritized money. While I’m an attorney, they know we’ve needed financial help on several occasions — with our wedding, with staying at the house for deeply discounted rent, with my maternity leave. My salary is good, but as a sole provider for a family of four in New York, not so much. Yet there I was, essentially telling her we would soon be millionaires.
She didn’t at all believe me.
I realized after she left that I didn’t need her to believe me, and shouldn’t expect her to. She doesn’t know how powerful my stance is. She doesn’t get that it’s inevitable. That it already happened. She doesn’t know my mind, my abilities, my talent, my resolve. It is for me to believe, without evidence — not her, not anyone else. The second I need someone else to believe is the second my certainty has faltered.
And you know, maybe it has a little. Maybe her reaction and my perception of it was honest feedback for me — i.e., less a result of the prejudices I perceive her to have, and more a result of my own doubt creeping in.
For example, toward the end of my maternity leave, and before I started my job search, we met with a financial planner at our house (a good friend of Jimmy’s). He walked us through an analysis he prepared based on my current income. I stopped him halfway through.
“You’re going to have to redo this,” I told him. “I’m about to get a new job that pays more.”
You can imagine how, watching me sitting there in my sweat pants with Brodie squirming on my lap after having not worked for two and a half months, he may have received my statement with a little skepticism. But my tone was so certain — and the conviction behind it so strong — that it literally knocked him back in his chair. He looked over at Jimmy and said: “Wow. Man, I bet it’s nice for you to hear her say something like that.”
He believed me. There was no option not to, because he could tell that, for me, it had already happened.
Perhaps that level conviction was missing in my conversation with Jimmy’s cousin — my mind with its nagging worries is continually trying to draw me in, and there are still too many moments in which it succeeds — but consider this post a redeclaration of my conviction now.
All of this has led to two thoughts that I’m still sort of ruminating about.
The first is that, the truth is, I understand that I can’t guarantee that the future I envision will happen. I know there are many things outside of my control. I know life can smite you when you least expect it. I know what I’m declaring is unreasonable. I know I may not fully understand how much it will take to get there. But, I also know that if I stand in this place — believing with complete certainty that this future I see is inevitable — then it or something like it just became a hell of a lot more likely to actually happen. So that’s where I’m committed to standing, no matter what. For me, it already happened. You can’t tell me something isn’t possible when it already happened.
The second thought I had is one that has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while.
Even without my golden future, lately, I feel more and more like I’ve already arrived at the life I want — with what I have right now.
That Thursday afternoon after Jimmy’s cousin left, I woke up the boys from their afternoon naps and placed them on the mat in the living room while the pre-summer sun streamed in through the open windows. I got on the floor and played with them and sang them a song or two. Then Jimmy got home, energized from his golf game. We left the boys with grandma and went out to dinner by the water and talked and stayed for coffee and dessert.
All Jimmy ever wanted was a family, and children, and enough time and money to play golf once in a while. All I ever wanted was a place to belong, my own tribe.
We have it.
I don’t really need anything else. I never dreamed of a yacht or a private jet. Neither did Jimmy. He wants his own training center. We want to own a nice, comfortable home down south. I dream of my palomino horse, and going for Sunday rides in the cool morning air, maybe towing the boys along with me on little ponies every once in a while.
But the things we wanted at our core — we have.
Is this feeling a result of what we have, or a shift in our relationship to it?
In other words, if someone else had what I have now, would they be dissatisfied? Would they say wow, you’re stuck out on Long Island in a small little suburban house? That stinks. Your husband is a lot older than you and stays home while you work — that’s kind of hard, no? And you have two boys? Man. Aside from being way too much work, too bad you didn’t have a girl and a boy, right? And your job seems okay, but, White Plains? Has anyone ever even heard of that firm? It sounds a little squirrelly. And it’s been how long since you’ve had a nice vacation somewhere exotic or bought yourself an expensive outfit just because?
The above thoughts come to mind because I’ve had them. I’ve had them when I was in a much different — and much worse — headspace (absent the thoughts about my new job, I shifted before then).
Now, I can’t imagine being anything but grateful for our cute little house, our yard and our porch, my mother-in-law next door to help us with the twins and bake us yummy things that smell delicious, my two gorgeous boys, my wonderfully attentive husband, my renegade-like job that gives me my time with my family and a chance to make real money (and some purpose, suing greedy corporations and banks who committed fraud thinking they’d get away with it for large sums of money).
I got to this state by getting present to actual, deep gratitude for my life exactly as it is.
So, to return to where I started this post, any time we talk to other parents, they get tears in their eyes telling us about how nostalgic they are for the stage we’re in now. That stage when they’re so impossibly small, but developing in new ways each day. That stage when you and your partner are in the trenches together, up all night, feeding, burping, changing — loving, laughing, crying, tip-toeing and shushing to let the other rest, expanding, growing, living.
What I wanted for us, crying on that couch, was exactly this. I didn’t want our lives to be different. I didn’t want to fast forward past the harder stages, to when the boys are 2, or 5, or 10, or 18, or to when we have more money or more things. Instead, I wanted our relationship with the here and now to change. I wanted us to get that our life as a family is happening now, and that we already have everything we want, in spades. I wanted us to get that we’ll miss these times one day — even their challenges — and maybe if we drink them in fully right now we’ll miss them a little less later on.
So here’s a question. For the first time in a long time, I truly feel like I’ve already arrived at the life I want — yet I am more driven than ever.
Doesn’t it seem like the opposite would be true? If I find myself fully satisfied with the present, why dream of the far off golden future? Why relentlessly pursue it? And yet my stance for our future is firmer than ever.
Somehow, these things go hand in hand — i.e., the more I enjoy my present life the firmer my belief in our future becomes — and I think the reason why may be the law of attraction.
When you raise your vibration, and your relationship to what you already have shifts to one of sincere gratitude, you open new pathways to what is available in the future. It’s a weird phenomenon, but I feel it happening.
At the ropes course in LP, I was determined to grab the trapeze, even though I’m a complete weenie about physical challenges. I decided that from the ground. Steve asked me, on the ground, what I intended to do. How far did I intend to go? I told him — just him, I didn’t loudly announce it, I didn’t declare it to our team — that I was going to grab the bar. And I did grab it.
On the way up — with a foot of snow on the ground, and my legs shaking on that wobbly pole — Jimmy yelled: “Don’t forget to enjoy it.”
And as he said that, I did. I enjoyed that I somehow stumbled my way into AdvancedEd, a program off the beaten path. That I was on some high ropes course I never, ever would have done in my alternate life. That the snow was on the ground, that the sun was in the trees, that my heart was racing, that my body was filled with life — that my future husband was down below, cheering me on. I enjoyed, too, making the leap, and feeling the bar in my hands even before my fingers closed around it.
With my major goal, I already feel the bar in my hands, standing here on the ground. That’s how focused on it I am. But we’re not going to forget to enjoy our journey there, because our life is right now.
I think that both are not only possible, but necessary; one begets the other.
To close out this post, I’m going to share here below the exact moment I made this mindset shift, to having arrived–which for me is a mixture of both gratitude for the present and certainty of my desired future. I wrote it down in my Notes on my iPhone (where I write everything). I don’t remember precisely when; I vaguely recall it being during one of those nights when I realized sleep was not going to happen because Brodie was wide awake and excitedly talking up a storm (promoter). Here it is:
March 23, 2017
Brodie’s default is smiling.
Mine? Worry. My thoughts when I go to bed: worry. My thoughts when I wake up: worry.
I’m going to bed filling my head with images of the life I want, that I am determined to create for myself and my family. I’m waking up with gratitude for the amazing things coming my way.
This is not an exercise in dreaming. F*ck dreaming. I am going to make these things happen. They are inevitable. I will not squander my powers of visualization and manifestation on worry anymore.
This is the line in the sand. There is no ceremony, no one to witness it, nothing that would outwardly mark this moment as significant, and yet, it is perhaps the most significant moment of the year.
I’m crossing the line. No more hoping, dreaming, wanting, no — I am, instead, going to shut up and do it.
I f*cking meant it.