The Power of NOW

No, I don’t mean the National Organization for Women. I mean “Now” as in “this present time.” I am learning all about living in the now these days. Having a baby does that. The meaning of this for me is two-fold:

These days, I can only do what I am doing right this second, which is to say that if I am feeding Claire I cannot also unload the dishwasher or make the bed or go running (though I can read The New Yorker and/or Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child). Having a baby sucks you in in this way; you are, for several stretches of the day, entirely engaged and indisposed, entirely at the mercy of the now.

Secondly, I’ve realized that living in the now means I’ve had to bid farewell to procrastination; if Claire is asleep or happily “playing” by herself, I’ve got to do whatever I want or need to do, and at double the speed. Procrastination used to be part of my daily routine. Now, if I allow myself that luxury, I’ll get absolutely nothing done.

At first, this drove me crazy. I wanted to multi-task the way I did in the old days; I wanted to get things out of the way. The general state of impatience and quickness that once characterized my days had turned into something much more deliberate and mundane. Before, I was always completing one task in the midst of thinking about the next, all so I could get through the things I knew I had to do in order to procrastinate for a good long time with my writing assignments. With a baby, one can only be patient, slow, and available.

Andrew has been worried about me slipping into the MomZone, a zone, that is, where my entire personality and thought life is poured into our child. As anxious as I was about the danger of losing myself prior to having Claire, I don’t feel threatened by it at all right now. Living in the Now, from moment to moment, forces me to prioritize well, to focus on those things that are most important (for myself or for Claire) and to be available – to friends, family members, and even my writing – in ways that I was too self-consumed and impatient to be before. Plus, I recognize that Claire’s absolute need for me won’t last forever, and, furthermore, that she is a great excuse for a myriad of social and professional faux pas.

For example, there are not enough Nows between now and the end of the summer to help me get all my thoughtful baby gift thank yous written; not enough Nows to serve ketchup in dining-room-table-worthy containers rather than the cold, half-used Heinz 57 bottle; not even enough Nows to put on matching shoes to go out to lunch with my husband – Just yesterday, I got home, kicked off my heels, and realized I’d gone out about town wearing one black sandal, and one brown one. So much for thinking I had it all together.

But I revel in the Nows I do have: stolen moments with my good friend Mac, the time between feedings when I can give Ivy some much-needed love, the presence of mind to pick up a freelance job (hip hip!) and complete it on time (hooray!). Most of all, I am grateful that some of my cherished Nows are not when Claire is sleeping, but when she is awake, because the power of Now truly rests in balancing two worlds well: mine, so full, exhausting and complex, and hers, as simple as the smile she shares with me.

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Not Forgotten

In the weeks following Claire’s birth, I felt a little overwhelmed. This was to be expected, of course – I’ve never had a baby before – but it’s worth mentioning on the blog that one of the major contributing factors to my responsibility overload (and serious guilt-feelings) was – and is – our golden retriever, Ivy.

Andrew and I got Ivy when she was eight weeks old. At a gas station on the Georgia/Alabama line, we met her breeder, Zegie, a woman with a strong country accent and a sweet disposition, and traded cash for lop-eared puppy. Ivy rode in my lap, trembling, all the way home. She was the softest, sweetest thing, all pounding heart and over-sized paws.

Ivy’s grandmother was a seeing-eye dog and her mother had the sleek, muscular build of an American Golden – more akin to an Irish Setter’s bodacious bod than that of the bulkier British Retriever’s. But it was Ivy, not her good looks or family line, with whom we fell in love. The puppy was all heart; she was feisty and mischievous; irresistibly snuggly; nearly human.

As Ivy grew (and grew … and grew) her heart grew even bigger than her paws, her loyalty stronger than the thump of her ever-swinging, golden-flocked tail. In the worst of times, she has catered to us with a sort of divine sensitivity: when I found out my father had died, Ivy leapt to my side, warming the shock out of my system, nuzzling me, as if expressing some sort of shared grief and deep understanding.

In the best of times, she has only added to our joy.

We talk to Ivy as if she is a human. She has only seen the inside of a kennel once in her life. For a dog, she has an astounding vocabulary, including (but not limited to) “Be patient!”, “Find your collar,” and six to ten names of friends and family members. Ivy knows to expect presents (and a chunk or two of real meat) on her birthday, February 1. In short, we have coddled her into human-hood.

Had Andrew and I decided never to have children, this human-treatment of pet would, though odd, pose little problem. But Claire’s arrival has complicated things. Friends, after congratulating us on Claire’s birth, would often ask – with serious gravity – “How’s Ivy doing?”. And the truth is, she’s done just fine, but we have had our hands full.

To feel loved, Ivy needs two walks a day. If we miss one, she gives us dirty looks. Every now and then, when I am in rapt “conversation” with Claire, I will glance over to see Ivy looking seriously despondent. This breaks my heart. When the baby cries, Ivy will often look away from her and sigh, and I worry about canine depression.

In reality, I know she’s just transitioning to a more sustainable place in the family pack, but the transition is hard. Ivy feels superior to Claire, and in many ways, she certainly is better domesticated, less wild, more considerate. I do like to remind her that she was much less trouble than Claire when she was a puppy, but this does little to placate her.

Going forward, Andrew and I are hopeful that Claire and Ivy will become good friends, eager playmates, sharers of little secrets. If our girl is anything like us, she’ll fall easily in love with Ivy, and Ivy, sensing that deep affection, will love her back. My only fear is that I will be the jealous one then, forced to cede the warm, lovey lump at the end of my side of the bed to Claire – a younger, more fun, less distracted version of myself.