Parenting

Finding quiet in the chaos

Katie is learning to find quiet moments for herself as a way to become a better parent and better partner.

Photo kulicki/iStockphoto

As a general rule, I like chaos. On a daily basis, I would much rather have noise and chatter and laughter than serene quiet. Maybe it’s the result of coming from a big family (each of my three siblings is highly entertaining), I don’t know, but offer me a trip to the circus over a yoga retreat, and the big top would be my default every time. (Minus the clowns. Not a fan of clowns. The oldest of said siblings thought watching Stephen King’s It would be a good idea when I was nine or 10. It was not.)
 
But, regardless of my love for chaos, even I have a breaking point and it snuck up on me last week.
 
I’m a firm believer in making time for yourself as a way to stay sane; I’ve always carved out a few hours a week to just do something on my own. When I was a resident assistant in university, I used to sneak out of the dorm to go drink hot chocolate and read trashy novels in the campus pub in the middle of the afternoon, leaving behind the stacks of classics I had to read for my English Lit degree and shouts of “Where are you going?” from students. When Blaine and I first moved in together, my alone time was running. But now, it’s not as easy. I don’t want to be away from Blaine or Sophie, firstly, and, secondly, I want Blaine to get some relaxation in, too. (Speaking of circuses, I’m still working on this new juggling act. I suck at it so far.)
 
But then my ever-present anxious alter ego poked her head out of the sand and I realized that all I was really doing was working and worrying. Sure, I was spending time with my little family, but, really, the worry infiltrated every evening. When I told Blaine, he promptly sent me to my old standby: the movies. It might seem weird, but I could go to the movies alone every single day of the week. I don’t have to talk to anyone, the screen distracts from whatever (mostly irrational) crap is whirling through my brain and I don’t have to share my popcorn. It’s glorious. It doesn’t matter what I see — I’ve seen some of the worst movies out there. It isn’t about the story, it’s about spending time with myself. I’m my own best date.
 
But here’s the only problem with the movies: I don’t actually deal with the anxiety at all. Sure, it takes my mind off of things but it doesn’t really give me time to reflect and examine. So, stage two of finding the quiet was a run on Sunday morning and a trip to mass at my favourite church in Toronto. I was raised Catholic, so, for me, sitting in mass, in the quiet, gives me time to centre myself. If you had asked me when I was 17 if I would turn to church to ground me in my adult life, I probably would have laughed out loud. It was an obligation then, something I was expected to do both at home and school, and I didn’t realize that I would reach for it for comfort. I suppose I should have known, because I can look back at the darkest moments of my life and see that I turned to my relationship with God — like the eight million candles (not really, but almost) I lit for my niece Eloise when she was born four months premature, because I needed to help in some way and it was the only thing I could think of — but I was still surprised to find that it was exactly what I needed. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
 
I suppose we’re creatures of habit, and even when I’m out of practice, it’s a little like the bike-riding bit: I forgot about the restorative powers of sitting in the dark without having to talk, or of having a conversation with an old friend. I would still choose chaos nine times out of 10, but the 10th time, I just need to be alone and maybe that’s okay. I would even argue it allows me to be a better parent and a better partner, and, mostly likely, a better juggler. Here’s hoping.