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Melissa McNallan and Chris Peterson about to Roadtrip with 5 Kids

Leaning into the Chaos with Calm | Journal Entry 6 of 108

April 7, 2018 Comments Off on Leaning into the Chaos with Calm | Journal Entry 6 of 108

Does it seem like there are abundant resources on how to spend time in solitude, learning to be alone, and the like? Why aren’t there resources on learning to go from solitude to being part of a large crew?

When Chris and I met, I was reaching the point in my life where the only person I would need to be responsible for was me. My one child was 17. I could move to Minneapolis, San Diego, leave the country. Given the connections I had at the time, once my daughter turned 18, I could’ve taken a job traveling the world. Anything.

Chris picked me up for our first date in his black Toyota Highlander. He was driving on the frontage road, nearing Newt’s, our destination for our low-key casual date, when he said, “I should let you know that I have 7 kids.” Then he said something to the effect of understanding if I didn’t want to continue on or beyond the date.

At the time, I had been teaching acting to 1st – 3rd graders at the Rochester Civic Theatre. I’d shared as much with him the day before, when we first met. Seven kids, him having seven kids didn’t overwhelm me enough to want to back out.

I was an only child until I was seven. Then, my brother Tim was born. Tony, the youngest of us, was born eleven months later. Much of my childhood was quiet until they showed up. I spent time with cousins on the weekends and friends after school. I could spend hours reading, playing with Smurf, Strawberry Shortcake, and Care Bear figures, or playing Barbies. In truth, given our age difference, my childhood stayed pretty quiet.

Chris grew up with five siblings. Two older than him and two younger. He is the quintessential middle child and a Leo besides. When we went on our first Happy Hour double-date with his brother and sister-in-law, we played darts. “Having good times with people who are important to you is the best, isn’t it?”

His words made my heart all melty. What great values, right? Yet, for me, sometimes (er…often) the best is hanging out with just me and my imagination accompanied by my laptop or a good book.

During much of my life, I haven’t been all that social, unless work required it: waitressing, selling cars, reporting, etc. I am an introvert by nature. Peace and quiet are two things I often crave. Sometimes I cook, clean, or write (as I am now) in total silence. It let’s me think.

Chris needs noise and people. Right now, as he figures out some work problem next to me, his earbuds are in. Chances are he’s listening to music that would make my shoulders rise up to my ears.

For many, learning to be in solitude or alone is a challenge. For me, it’s the reverse. I do welcome the challenge. My life is many times richer than it was before. I’m also learning that I can do things I didn’t know I could without having a meltdown.

I did not know I could:

  • Do yoga while doors are banged on (the bathroom, it’s always about who gets to shower when), the volume on video games is up, and with interruptions. Before life with Chris, I would demand quiet while I did yoga at home. It’s easy to ask one person to be quiet for 20 – 30 minutes. To ask 5 to put their lives on mute for that long? That would be a futile battle.
  • Return to a to-do list once the fun is done. Laundry can wait while we go out and have a good time with family and friends. No one will be harmed and we get to go have fun and make memories.
  • Cook for a crowd. I have found that it is best done with a glass of wine and a calm mind.

P.S. The featured picture for this blog. Y’know this one:
Melissa McNallan and Chris Peterson about to Roadtrip with 5 Kids
It is of Chris and I standing outside of the Suburban we rented. We were on our way to pick up 5 of his kids and take them from Rochester, Minnesota to Chicago and NYC. They are some pretty amazing road warriors. For more on the experience, check out I’m Not a Soccer Mom, but Sometimes I Look Like One.

This post is part of a series inspired by Eat Pray Love.

I’m Not a Soccer Mom, but Sometimes I Look Like One