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Words I Just Finished Reading

The Kitchen House
The Atomic Weight of Love
We're All Damaged
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Wishful Drinking
News of the World
The Forgotten Garden
Out of My Mind
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love
My Not So Perfect Life
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
The Lost Wife
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
Anna and the French Kiss
Little Bee

Julie's favorite books »


Nobody move.

Earlier this week, Mando woke Nolan before he left for work.  I was extremely displeased.  You may be thinking, “Julie, it was a school day.  He had to wake up anyway.  What’s the big deal?”  These are all reasonable questions and therefore irrelevant to this discussion.  Because among my top rules in life is this one: never wake a sleeping baby. 

Now, some of you will have a hard time identifying with this preoccupation.  Some of you had easy, reasonable babies.  These babies were adaptable: they napped in the car, in the bouncy seat, in the baby carrier, in their crib.  They stayed asleep when you transferred them from place to place.  They took long, luxurious naps and you reveled in your superiority while you read articles about the importance of sleep for brain development.  Good Sleepers are the most popular babies.  On Wednesdays they wear pink.  

But many babies are not Good Sleepers; many babies are Conscientious Objectors.  These babies have principles: among them, they refuse to nap for more than forty-five minutes.  You may think that the Objector is in there sleeping peacefully, but that baby is playing you, fool.  The Good Sleeper wakes up happy; the Objector wakes up with a grudge.  The Objector turns a previously semi-normal woman into a maniac who insists on TOTAL SILENCE during naptime.  This woman will murder you with her eyes if you dare to close a cabinet too loudly.  This woman’s parents may have called her the Sleep Nazi because she was such a lunatic.  (This happened to a friend.) 

So when Mando wakes up our older child (who no longer naps and is no longer an infant), I cannot stop the involuntary, visceral response, instantly feeling that remembered mix of rage, extreme tiredness, and frustration.  Why won’t this child sleeeeeeeeep?

But because of that very desperation, when my Objector did sleep, it was bliss.  I would lie on the couch, doing something worthwhile like watching Desperate Housewives, and I would think, “This is perfect.  The baby is sleeping.  NOBODY MOVE.” 

Lately I’ve been feeling happy.  The boys are at a great age.  They’re in this innocent sweet spot: they aren’t yet driving and chasing girls, but they’re also not toddling around the house trying to electrocute or choke themselves.  They’re fun and kind and good and sassy and they understand sarcasm.  I am known and loved and my husband is still my favorite person after fifteen years of marriage.  The baby is sleeping and everything is perfect.  Nobody move.

Because happiness feels elusive at times.  It’s the reason I wish I could freeze time.  It’s a moment of beauty, or fun, or intimacy, or consonance: this is exactly as it should be.  And I want to capture that happiness; I want to inhabit those moments and revel in their perfection.  Seasons of happiness are even more precious.  Please, nobody move. 

But clinging too tightly gives rise to a quiet panic that strangles the very joy present in that moment.  As I’m reading through Being Mortal, I’m reminded again and again that change is the constant, and it’s rarely invited or welcomed.  Illness, aging, the obtuseness of the human condition, the complicated lives of our loved ones: they are all loud, inconsiderate intruders.  They’re opening the door (loudly), waltzing in and banging pots and pans in the kitchen even though all is peaceful and THE BABY IS SLEEPING.

But perhaps happiness isn’t as precarious or conditional as I thought.  Maybe there’s a wisdom to letting it flow through my open hands.  If I let it flow, then perhaps I’ll have freedom to encounter the intruders with bravery and strength.  Perhaps I’ll be able to see opportunities and invite them in, even though it risks upsetting the balance of life.  Perhaps I will embrace growth, believing that loving my children well means our relationships will require constant evolution (even though I will forever miss the days when they reached up and folded their little hands into mine).  Perhaps I’ll be able to gracefully endure those endings that are so much more bitter than sweet. 

Perhaps it’s okay for people to move around and make noise, because the baby will wake up when the baby wakes up, and I’ll pick him up and inhale his sweet, tangy, post-nap smell and there will be a happiness in that moment, too.  Perhaps joy and grace are available to me in every messy moment, merely waiting to be welcomed in.   

However, please know that there is an exception to my ironclad rule: Mando should always be awakened from a nap.  Because if that man is dozing on the couch, then happiness is plugging in the vacuum.

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