This morning I stopped by the grocery store to order my daughter’s birthday cake and balloons for her party this weekend. While picking between a sheet cake and cupcakes, pink balloons and purple balloons, my mind struggled to find peace in the midst of the huge breadth of human experience. At the same time that I am selecting cakes and balloons and rejoicing in the growth and development of my children, I am aware of the devastation people are experiencing around the world right now. Closer to home, the personal devastation of friends who have lost a baby. Understanding how to handle these kinds of dichotomies of being human has been a long-time struggle for me.
Not too long ago I sat across the table at a restaurant and watched my two adorable children giggle while they enjoyed their ice cream. Watching their two little faces and listening to them chatter about school and friends, I was overwhelmed by the intense beauty of being the mother of these two kids.
I’ve learned something about life from being a mom. Actually, I’ve learned a ton of things, but specifically in this moment I realized something I’ve learned about life and pain and joy. Being a parent is not what I would call an easy thing. There are studies that show that parents today actually record less daily satisfaction than adults with no children. The morning routine of getting everyone out of the house makes me want to cry on a regular basis. Even while I was feeling this wonderful mommy glow my kids spilled ice cream everywhere, one of them wouldn’t sit down and the other left the restaurant crying. But there is something unquantifiable about those moments of intense, overwhelming, joy-filled rushes of knowing your life is significant because of those children.
When I first became a mom, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer difficulty and labor of it. I didn’t know then that there are studies that show it’s normal for moms, especially new moms, to be unhappy and overwhelmed. I didn’t realize then that becoming a mom would show me more about the breadth of human experience than I could even imagine. The peaks and valleys of life have turned out to be far more intense than I anticipated. The experience of being a human has turned out to be more filled with joy and tragedy, heartbreak and hope than I could even begin to imagine when I was a child.
What I have learned from being a parent is that life is hard and that’s ok. There isn’t going to be an even-keeled, smooth level of emotion through out life. Some days are going to suck. Sometimes there will be horrible tragedy that is beyond bearing. Some times the daily grind just becomes a grey swirl of exhaustion. There is often a soul-tearing sense of loss and confusion caused by the dichotomy of the good things and the hard things.
What I am learning now is to accept each moment of time as a wave crashing against the beach. The good and the bad come in and flow out. I want to savor the good while it swirls around me and accept and then release the difficult ones.
Later today I am going to go shopping for a birthday present for my daughter and I am going to say thanks for the capacity to give her good gifts. Later on when she won’t go to bed and keeps whining while my head hurts and I just want to sleep for the next few days, I am going to pray for patience and remember those whose suffering is more than I can even imagine.
I’m going to savor the good while it swirls around me and accept, then release the difficult. I think there I will find peace in the tension between valley and peak.
I’m drowning my sorrows in a 64 calorie light beer. Which is kind of like saying I’m trying to defeat Goliath with a puppy. Thursday evenings have got to be the ickiest night of the week. It’s not Friday, but I’m already too worn out for this week to continue.
I nearly had an anxiety attack at the grocery store. It’s really not fair for work stuff and home stuff and just plain old life stuff to all pile up on you at once. On days like this I’m just tired of all the pretense. You know the pretending that things are awesome, that I am altogether and have clear direction.
Acting like I have some clue about how to parent my kids. Pretending like I know how to manage my career in some sane direction that will weather the unpredictability of storms that are out of my control. Dressing up and acting like I’m an adult who is staring down the barrel at 40 when I still feel like an awkward 15 year old on the inside.
It’s all kind of like the light beer I’m drinking. It’s the pretense of having a drink, but not too much of a drink. A drink that doesn’t really have calories and not too much alcohol content any either.
But I don’t want to drink light beer. I want to drink full-bodied merlots. I want all the flavor and the strength.
I don’t want the pretense of a life where I just pretend all the time. I want it full flavored. I want to walk through life with my boots on and a fearless cape flapping out behind me.
So that’s up for tomorrow. But tonight I’m drinking light beer.
I have a spot on my shirt. It’s from my lunch. I tried to wash it off with my napkin and a little water, but it sunk in. Now I am stuck walking around with this big spot on my shirt until I can get home this evening. It is seriously disrupting my image of myself as a person who is capable of hiding the mess.
I’m not a great housekeeper. I have a tendency to clean by hiding things. When I was a kid, I would shove stuff under my bed until my mom stopped that by storing an extra mattress under my bed. Then I discovered I could put the mess into boxes and store them in the hallway closet and she didn’t seem to notice or she had just run out of energy to fight about it.
Today you are welcome to come over and open my closets, but it’s at your own risk. I do clean them out occasionally, but it’s not my natural inclination. So having a big spot on my shirt is a reminder that sometimes I’m just plain messy. I prefer to hide that fact. I will admit to having messy closets, but I don’t like it when they stare me in the face.
Right now I am struggling with some areas of life that are a little messy. It’s the kind of stuff that you just don’t want to deal with. I would prefer to stuff it into a closet or pack it up in a box and stick it in the garage. But they are festering things that have been left too long and when I try to look at my life from a long-term perspective I know this isn’t the path that I want to be walking on. In the small moments of life it is so easy to shove stuff away and hide from it. In those individual moments I can easily justify a behavior that isn’t my ideal way to act or to be.
In the midst of this chaotic life I am picking too many small moments of justification and not choosing to take the long road’s perspective. The really hard part is that the stuff just gets worse and worse. Things that I should have dealt with a long time ago are still hanging around and now are full-grown monsters instead of the little gerbils they started out as.
Like my shirt with this spot there are some things in life that just need to be changed. Sometimes I’m messy and it haunts me a little. I guess I can keep walking around with it or I can change the shirt.
I couldn’t wake up this morning. I have three separate alarms set on my iPhone any of which are supposed to wake me up in the morning. I never heard the first. Must have just turned it off.
The second one I hit snooze over and over and over…
The second and third ringing back and forth every two minutes finally propelled my eyelids to open. But I still didn’t want to get up.
I am just tired. Very, very tired. Like my bones ache with it kind of tired.
But if I don’t get up my kids miss their summer camp field trip, my husband’s shirt in the washer won’t get into the dryer in time for him to dress, the people at my job who depend on my input to move forward with their work won’t get it.
I used to be really commitment-phobic. I was always scared to give away too much of myself to commit. But kids and marriage and a job/career/means to pay the bills changes all that. Like it or not, commitment is here and it’s here to stay.
I used to be afraid that commitments would take away my identity. That being a mom would mean I would loose the other parts of me. That being a wife would eat up my freedom. That trading 40 hours (at least) of my life a week would be a sell out.
And some of that is completely true. I lost some of my identity when I had kids. I don’t have the freedom of a single person anymore. My career takes up a big part of my life.
But what about the stuff I didn’t have before? The full heart. The companionship that pushes away all the lonely that used to plague me. The chance to be part of a team both at home and at work.
Those good things came with a downside though. Along with them came the Tired – the bone-aching, soul-drying kind of tired. Some days I am not even sure I can make it through the next hour.
But here’s the deal – I could quit a job, but I can’t quit my marriage or quit my kids. Even in my most desperate moments when I have crave escape from the chaos and exhaustion, I know that there is no letting go, no where to run.
My life experiences have left an indelible impression on my soul. There is no way to roll back time and undo years of marriage and family, years of working and growing.
Commitment is here and it’s here to stay. And I don’t want it any other way. I want all of what comes with it. Maybe I just need to make myself go to bed earlier.