She doesn't ask for my perfection.

Immediately upon putting her down, my daughter fell, then got up, took a step, and fell yet again very narrowly missing a fall into a freshly deposited turd. Sometimes I can’t believe that part of my job is to be responsible for the life of another human being who so nearly stumbles into dog shit.

Times such as these bring a certain poignancy to the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing.

A broken heart is a strong heart.

Over the short time of my life I have learned a lot of techniques to shield and wall off my heart. I bury things. I create structures around things to separate my heart from everything else. I numb feelings with distraction. I make sure I am easy to like, easy to be around, and easy to love by hiding the things about myself that might be hard, uncomfortable, or messy.

When I had a kid, all of the techniques I used to know disappeared. Nothing would tolerate a burial. Nothing permitted being segregated into neat categories. None of the sharp edges could be dulled. All of the hard, uncomfortable, and messy parts of me sat out in the open for me and everyone else to see. My heart broke and so it released everything it held.

This is the story of my depression.

It is all too easy to grab the shovel and begin burying the painful parts of ourselves. Glasses of wine, bowls of ice cream, superficial positivity, pseudo-spirituality, Netflix, perfectionism, and constant business all heap their own shovelfuls of dirt onto the discomfort of being real. The notched, knotted, snagged, barbed, and broken pieces of ourselves take the cruelest beating, often at our own hands.

Carving out quiet amidst the noise.

Last week, I took a short hike with my daughter around a nearby tidal pond. It was a crisp autumn weekday. The path was deserted. The pond silent. I stopped and whispered to my daughter, “Hey, do you hear that? Just the birds and the wind in the trees.”

Parenting with the head and the heart.

Before my daughter was born I recall my wife and I talking about the kind of parents we intended to be. We  wanted to be like lighthouses for our daughter. The sort of parents that let our kid cast her ship to the sea, but set a light on the rocky shore so she could steer her way clear.

Emptiness becomes more than it is.

It’s been weeks, possibly months since I’ve had anymore than a few minutes to myself. But, today is different. Today I got some “me time.” I was alone because I was driving to a doctor’s appointment because I’ve had bronchitis for 12 days.

My values don't need to be my obligations.

I started out parenting full of ideals. I am a proud owner of a liberal arts degree and I spent a few years working on organic farms, so you can easily imagine the slightly puritanical work ethic surrounding all of my many values. I imagined making our own baby food, wonder-filled outdoor experiences, putting together charming child crafts, and making precious handmade items to adorn my child and her room. Sounds snappy, right?

I want to talk about being an overwhelmed parent.

It seemed like everything should be easy, but every little thing felt so hard. My brain became consumed with this never-ending list of everyone and everything that needed things from me. Child, spouse, dog, chickens, garden, job, extended family, community. I used to love cooking. I used to love gardening. I used to love our dog. I used to love hanging out with the chickens in the coop. But, suddenly everything just felt like an endless chore.

Would you like some unsolicited advice?

There is an assumption that I want my life to be more efficient, productive, cleaner, easier, healthier, better. All of this advice reflects I want more of something I don’t have now. Because I’m not cutting it now. Because I’m dissatisfied. Because I don’t know what I’m doing.

While I held my baby, I learned how to hold my heart.

I knew nothing would be the same after having a child. But, I didn’t realize how much I’d never be the same.

The very composition of my heart changed. The little blood vessels, muscle tissue, and cells that make up my heart all refashioned themselves. My innards got a makeover and, as a result, the way I connected and carried the invisible parts of myself all changed.

The practice of taking up space.

It has gotten so much harder to find space now. The logistics and packing are overwhelming. The communication is shoddy. The understanding from people who aren’t in it as full time parents is nonexistent. The emotional and physical effort it takes to create space is daunting. Sometimes it feels easier to just go with the flow. Allow the natural flow of being crowded out.

Holding space has never been this heavy.

People told me parenting is the hardest thing they’ve ever done. People told me that no one knows what they are doing. When my wife was pregnant and during hard times of parenting, these are all things I heard from friends and acquaintances. They left something out. No one ever told me how often there is nothing to do.

Being a parent is not a job.

Parenting is just part of the professionalized pinterest pack with its grabby headlines about 5 ways to stop a tantrum in its tracks, precious clothes, and picturesque outdoor activities. It appears that everything can be an outlet for perfectionism, specialization, and over-thinking.