Musings

Exhale

Tonight I’m lying here beside sleeping Olive, who wheedled her way into my bed, and I’m thinking about the past three years.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how far I’ve come – how far WE’VE come.

It’s feeling very fall-ish already in these parts. Crisp evenings and foggy mornings and me slowly rooting out and donating every extraneous item in our house in my traditional fall purge.

In the midst of all of this, I was writing down events in my old-school paper planner (does anyone else still use these? I’m terrified they’ll go extinct. I use a Google calendar too, but I can’t function unless I can SEE my week) when I found myself in the first week of October, writing, “Olive’s 6th Birthday”.

She starts Grade 1 in a handful of days, then she turns six.

I’m going to have a six-year-old. And while I’m floored by this fact in the way all mothers are when we suddenly step back to notice that all the small growing our children did invisibly day after day has added up to something so huge (SIX!), it’s also because for me, Grade 1 has always hovered in the future as a finish line of sorts.

When we first moved to Calgary, I had no idea how any of this was going to work. Olive and I moved into a tiny basement apartment where we shared a room. I had one very small writing client and basic child support. I was scared out of my mind.

The road from there until Olive began Grade 1 – when she’d be in school all day and I’d be able to take on more work without having my paycheque swallowed up by childcare bills – seemed so long.

I didn’t have a plan. I felt like I couldn’t look more than a few months in front of me or I’d get a strangled, choking feeling because I truly didn’t know what was going to come next or how I was going to make it happen.

But we’re here. We made it. And now it just seems like it was always sort of…inevitable. Like, of course we got here! What else was going to happen?

And so while I’ve been making sure she has new shoes and labelling everything and girding myself for the reality of packing a full lunch every day, it hasn’t really sunk in. I haven’t spent a lot of time letting it.

I have a tendency to do this, to magnify my mistakes and gloss over the more triumphant bits. When I accomplish something I usually just turn my sights to the next thing, and I’ve been trying to undo that, to balance out my focus more.

So, I’m writing this post. To mark this realization in a small but significant way, in the way I mark all realizations, really – by writing a monologue to strangers on the internet. It’s fitting somehow, because really, that’s what’s gotten me here. Virtually everything I have achieved can be traced back to this blog.

If I’m being completely honest, the past three years were mostly wonderful, but there were also deep pockets where things felt challenging and lean and exhausting and sometimes panic-inducing. I’ve often been filled with guilt and worry about how Olive will look back and see these years. Whether she’ll understand what was happening, or why.

It’s felt a lot like holding my breath.

I’m trying now to consciously exhale.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Bernard Walter August 31, 2018 at 11:41 PM

    Breathe, Maddie. It’s yoga on a pier, overlooking the mountains. And, Whitney Houston had a famous hit in the ‘90s about the power of exhaling.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine September 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM

      Whitney Houston is always right!

  • Reply Kassey September 1, 2018 at 2:27 AM

    Yeah you did this, these last few years, and you not only survived, you thrived. Go well sista.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine September 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM

      YAS! Thanks so much, Kassey.

  • Reply Jessica Marshall September 3, 2018 at 7:26 PM

    Love this – your writing has gotten so good through the years. I look forward to each post and all the feels it induces.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine September 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM

      Thanks, Jessica! I’m trying to carve out some space to write more, hopefully it works! xo

  • Reply Erica September 5, 2018 at 11:59 AM

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile now – since you wrote the post on the lies of baby sleep I think? All that you and Olive have been through – please know you’ve had (many I’m sure) silent cheerleaders thinking of you. Enjoy this well earned milestone. You both deserve nothing but all the beauty the world has to offer you.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine September 10, 2018 at 12:24 PM

      Thank you so much, Erica.

  • Reply Aki September 8, 2018 at 10:54 AM

    I first came across your work via The Guardian column “All you need is less”. The content of your work has been inspiring. The grace and courage you have shown in surviving a major personal trauma has equally filled me with awe. I now have a 16 month old baby and am 6 months pregnant with my second one. You, miss minimalist, the NY Times and possibly MMM (money blog) are amongst the best (few) things on the internet.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine September 10, 2018 at 12:23 PM

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a kind comment, Aki! I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Congratulations on your second – you’re going to have your hands full soon, if you don’t already 😉
      Madeleine

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