Chris and I have an ongoing, pretend debate that centers around this question: am I easygoing? I have enough classic middle-child qualities that make for a healthy conversation: I tend to be agreeable, quick to compromise and, like every good-girl-turned-adult, eager to please. From a distance, these qualities can make me seem relatively relaxed.
This side of my personality is never more obvious than when I show up to the Atlanta airport 40 minutes before a flight, confident we will "figure it out!" if we miss it. Those traveling with me are sprinting (/sweating), while I am stopping to buy gum and a magazine.
During our debates, I often joke that I tricked Chris into dating me by seeming chill, only to reveal my anxious, sometimes high-strung side when he was already hooked. This is, of course, fictitious. It was on our first date that Chris said: "This feels too good to be true. Tell me all of your bad qualities now so there aren't any surprises."
At which point I believe I told him: "I tend to run anxious. I am working through perfectionism. I put a lot of pressure on myself, especially when it comes to people and things I care about."
Never has this been more true than in motherhood. You have so much responsibility, combined with love, for another human. It can feel overwhelming to make the right choices, especially when handling a newborn who can't express his needs.
Early on I realized I was taking the role very seriously. While I, yet again, tried to be easygoing, as people encouraged me to relax into it and follow McCoy's rhythms, I stressed a lot. Tracking his sleep, poop, pee and feeds. Worrying if, at 2 p.m. one day, he'd barely slept. Worrying still more if, at 4 p.m. the next day, he'd barely been awake.
"He pooped three times yesterday, why hasn't he pooped today? It was yellow yesterday, did you notice it was green today," I'd ask Chris. "Should we call the pediatrician?"
Our pediatrician doesn't know it, but she thanks Chris for his calm reply: "Let's give it a little time before calling."
Bless this steady man.
A few weeks after Mac's birth, my friend, Katie, who has a very similar easy-going-high-strung-personality, told me this:
I'm trying to remember that not everything in life is so high-stakes.
I made her repeat it.
It struck me. I treat so many parts of life like they are high-stakes. As if there is great risk or impact or loss at every turn.
It is a combination of two things: Desperately wanting to "get it right" when it comes to the people and things I love. And wanting to please.
Combined, these two desires can create a monster of anxiety. They can make every decision or step seem superly important. They can make it so life becomes more serious than it ever needed to be.
Lately, before beginning a task or decision, I've been asking myself: is this high stakes?
If the answer is yes, I allow myself to take it seriously, diving into it with research and zest and focus and whatever I need to do to feel prepared to tackle it.
If the answer is no, I force myself to take a deep breath and let my shoulders drop just a little bit. Perhaps even smiling through it - even if it's just me, solo, grinning away.
I'm remembering that life presents enough opportunities to be serious. We need not make mountains out of molehills when life is already full of so much heartbreak. When it already asks us to make big, impactful decisions regularly. When it already requires us to be grown ups so much of the time.