girl running through flowers in spring time
Christy Gualtieri

We Get Spring

There’s a catchy pop song that was a big hit a few years back, and part of it echoes so plainly in my ears now: “How am I going to be an optimist about this?”  That song was about Pompeii, and what’s swirling around us these days is, no doubt, just as much of a candidate for the history books.

I don’t really know how I’m going to be an optimist about this, but I may have one little idea: I will sleep when the baby sleeps.

For those of you who aren’t parents, the phrase “sleep when the baby sleeps” is given to new* parents to remind them that they too need rest, and that you’d better get while the getting is good.  Of course you want to stay up and fret about whether your baby is breathing in the night. Of course you want to gaze for hours at their features while you hold them in the moonlight. But babies wake up, and cry, and nurse, and because you didn’t sleep while the baby slept, you’ll be tired and cranky the whole time, and possibly want to throw anything within arm’s reach at your napping husband.

And so it is in these long, languishing days of quarantine, I will sleep when the baby sleeps. Not really sleep, of course, because my kids are much too fond of crawling all over me and incessantly asking me questions, but I will just focus on what the immediate need is, at this moment. It’s all I can do. It’s all anyone can do.

Farmers have a similar saying: “Make hay while the sun shines.” There’s no point in making hay while it’s raining; it’d get ruined.  So instead, you clean the dishes or wash the walls or count raindrops sliding down the window. You do what you can with what you have in front of you.

We all want to make hay, I get it. We all want to watch the baby sleep. But most, if not all of us reading this will need to pretty much be sitting in their homes, where those things just cannot – or should not – get done. So what can you do? How can you be an optimist about this?

I can’t answer that for you. But for me, it’s truly getting down to the brass tacks. The minutiae of it all – what’s in front of you.

We have more time for walks, the kids and I, because we’re homeschooling now and there’s no one to tell us no. The smallest buds are coming out, and the robins have soared back into the yard, looking for bits and bobs to feather their nests. My kids are excited that Spring is earlier this year. “Because the groundhog didn’t see his shadow!” Says the oldest. “Yeah!” chimes the younger. “Punkshatawney Film didn’t see it! We get Spring!

We get Spring. Yes, we get trouble, too. But we get Spring. Enjoy it! And take a nap, when you can.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

*This advice is only for first-time parents, because once you have more kids all bets are off…unless there’s a tremendous gap in age between your kids and you have one newborn and one teenager who works and can drive themselves anywhere they like. Well done to you, I say.

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Young girl and mother playing hide and seek
Christy Gualtieri

Seeking

“Mom, can you hide like this?” My four year old asked me, as she covered her eyes and started to walk through the room, counting “One…two…three…”

“Oh, you mean like hide and seek?”

“Yeah!”

I watched her walk, still counting aloud, with her tiny hands over her closed eyes. I put an arm out so she wouldn’t walk into the wall. “It’s not a good idea to walk when you’re counting,” I told her.  It’s best to keep your eyes open when you’re seeking.”

I thought about that last phrase for a while, after she uncovered her eyes and wandered over to start another game, this time with her dolls.

It is best to keep your eyes open when you’re seeking.  

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It’s such an interesting time in the world right now. We’re shown images – constantly, everywhere we look – of how we could (or, really, “should”) be. We’re also, in almost equal amounts, shown images and told words of how important it is to accept ourselves as we are. And we’re caught in the middle, staggering from one side to the other, trying to “be all we can be” while simultaneously trying to be perfectly satisfied with where we’re at now.

But are we satisfied? And can we ever be perfect?

The answer to both is probably no. We know we can never be perfect, because we know that perfect is an illusion. The person with one Instagram follower wishes for more just as the Instagram owner with one million followers does. The grass is always greener; the horizon is always just beyond; the kids could always be just that more well behaved; the dog could be better about shedding its fur all over the house.

So we know perfect doesn’t exist. But we could know that truth, understand it, and still not be happy with where we are today. We’re not satisfied, and that’s fair. Things may not be perfect but they could be better, and we can have a large part in attaining that for ourselves.

But we won’t, if we don’t seek it out for ourselves. And we can’t seek with our eyes closed.

It’s okay to look at ourselves objectively and work on ways to make ourselves kinder, more efficient, more punctual, less gossipy, whatever it is. It’s okay to say to ourselves, “You know, I love you and there are so many good things about you, but maybe we can start to work on this area of our lives so that not only others in the world will have an easier time of it, but it will help us too.” It won’t be a detriment to us to be more patient, or more loving, or more generous. It will, of course, in the short term. It’s not easy to be more generous, even though we want to be. It’s not easy to be kind, and it’s certainly not easy to be patient.  But we can be, even just a little bit more than yesterday.

In this season of Spring that will be here right before you know it, this time of renewal, what can we find within ourselves that can be cultivated, grown, tendered? How can we change for the better, and still love ourselves in the process?

How can we open our eyes?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman puts roses in vase. Housewife taking care of coziness on kitchen decorating with flowers.
Christy Gualtieri

Flowers in Bloom

The vase needs water; at this rate, the flowers won’t last much longer. So I pick up the glass vase, still full of greens, reds, purples and yellows, and bring it to the sink. I lift up the stems, trying to avoid the thorny ones, and stream some fresh water in from the tap. I bring it back to its spot on the wide, flat windowsill, and admire the way it is a lively contrast to the bare, winter-naked trees just outside.

I only have one vase, at least that’s the way it seems. I’ve gotten a few over the years but they’re scattered somewhere, surely full of dust, and one full of old palms that have become crispy over time. I didn’t want to risk a pile of palms crumbling all over my living room floor, so all of the flowers have gone in the one remaining vase.

The red roses are the freshest, just a few days old. Lovely and plump for Valentine’s Day, straight from the grocery store (my unironic favorite – seriously, grocery store flowers last a long time!) along with armfuls of goodies for the kids. Then come the baby’s breath, then bunched in the middle is the wildflower bouquet from the neighbor, marking the four years it’s been since my mother died. She’s so sweet to remember, every year, without fail – one of the only ones who doesn’t need a Facebook post to be reminded.  This year was harder than the last, I think, for reasons I am not entirely sure of, and so this year the flowers (and their lovely colors, both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time) were especially welcome.

Such a simple thing, flowers in a vase, sitting on a windowsill. But it does not escape me that the roses, given to me on a day that signifies love, surround the flowers that remind me of loss. In this vase, love and loss do not exist without the other. I didn’t plan that arrangement. I really just pushed the flowers in where they fit, but there it is just the same; and it is because of this particular mix of flowers that I feel especially grateful today: that I am on all sides cared for and loved during the moments of my life that are the hardest.

My wish and hope for you is the same: may you always be surrounded by love and beauty, even in the most difficult of times.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

woman in red hat, sunglasses and suit of 90s with VHS cassette
Christy Gualtieri

The Things That Stay

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I went to the movies to see the new remake of Little Women. (I love the story, and the adaptation was pretty enjoyable! I’d recommend it.) On the way there, the song “No Scrubs” by TLC came on the radio, and although it’s rare to hear it, the station had decided to include the rap solo that usually gets cut out of radio edits. The rap mentioned the word “Filas,” which most members of the late Gen-X (of which I am a member) and the early Millennials will recognize as a shoe brand. They were the brand that everyone wanted when I was in high school. The most popular kids wore them, great pains were taken to make sure they were kept clean, and plenty of famous people sported them when they went out.

I do not intend any disrespect to the company, which is still around and I am sure continues to make fantastic products, but I had not thought about Filas in a solid twenty years before that car ride. That led me to wonder about the things that last, not only fads that have had their time in the sun, but the things that last for us personally. What are the things that you were so invested in decades ago that you’ve completely forgotten now? What personal claims did you stake? What were the biggest issues that consumed you and eventually fell away with time?

And for that matter – what things stayed?

Little Women was first published in the late 1860s and has been remade several times for a reason – its themes of sisterhood, young love, feminism and sacrifice have resonated with each generation that have come after it. Those things have all withstood the test of time. Plenty of books and movies have come and gone and will never be heard from again. (Although I did just hear that there’s another installment of the “National Treasure” movies in the works, so maybe not all is lost.)

It’s kind of funny to think about the things that stay. How the things we worry about so much only stay because we hold onto them so tightly. What are the things in your life that you’ve held on to – for better or for worse? We all have things we should let go of but we just can’t, no matter how hard we try; and maybe it’ll be years before we finally let them go. But there are things that we hope will be around a good long time more than we will, the invisible laws that are written on our hearts. Love. Kindness. Mercy.

If you have a few seconds, take some time to think about the things you want to keep in your life. What do you want to pass on to the next generation? What things matter the most, and which are just a flash in the pan? Maybe it would do you good, and all of us, really to orient ourselves and put our energies into those things, the lasting things. All the rest, as they say, can be history.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Christy Gualtieri

Attitude of Gratitude

Confession time: I don’t like writing thank you notes. I am thankful, of course, for the things I receive; and I very much appreciate the people I receive these things from but as a parent with very little extra time in my day, it’s hard to find the energy to sit down, pull out a stack of cards, and think of all I want to say to thank someone for a gift. And because I am of the unfortunate generation that grew up writing things by hand but transitioned to mostly typing on a computer, just the sheer effort of physically writing the words gets tedious a lot earlier than it used to. (I know exactly how absurd this all sounds, by the way. But it’s true!)

Although I don’t like actually writing them, I do very much love the idea behind writing them, because I understand that buying things – and especially making things – for someone else takes time, and effort, and thought; and it’s something that needs recognition and my appreciation! So this year, after dutifully writing down who gave what gift to each of my family members, I’m sitting down to write my Christmas thank yous; and doing so gave me the chance to think about the idea of gratitude and what it means to be thankful every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving or after a birthday or when someone does something nice for you.

What does it mean to be thankful when it’s an ordinary day, when there’s work to go to and bills to pay and a family to cook and clean for? What does gratitude look like for you when it doesn’t appear that you have anything to be thankful for? How can we start living lives that are thankful even when there’s no extra reason to be?

Well, one way may be to look beyond the obvious. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful when someone shows up at your door with a gift or when someone helps you out; but we can start much smaller than that: by looking at ourselves. We’re not perfect, and not all of us have perfect bodies, but there’s plenty of things about our bodies we can be thankful for right now. Sure, you may have a bad haircut; but if you’re reading this right now, you have eyes (at least one) that can see this and a brain that can understand it. We can be thankful for that! If you can’t see and someone is reading this to you, then you have ears to hear it! We tend to be fixated on the parts of our bodies that we don’t like, but we can celebrate the ones that do. We can be thankful for our educations, our abilities, and the tiniest things that bring us joy.

We can even take it outside ourselves: there’s our families, our relationships, our cities, our communities. And even if those bring you pain, keep breaking it down to the point where you can find one thing to be thankful for about them. Sooner or later, you’ll find something and when you find one thing, you’re bound to find more.

Everyone knows someone who has been so beaten down by what life’s given them that they can’t see any of the good. If you know someone like that, please, please encourage them. Find something that you like about them and let them know about it because it can make all of the difference in the world. And if that someone is you, try – even just the smallest effort is something to celebrate – to find the closest thing to you that you can be thankful for. Even if it’s not joyful, it will help you learn to look for the good around you instead of constantly turning toward the bad. Slowly, slowly, little by little, we’ll begin to adopt the kind of lives that bring joy to others and to ourselves, so much so, that maybe we won’t just save all the giving thanks for holidays. We can really, truly live it all year.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.