I had a friend approach me recently and ask how I was doing everything I have on my schedule right now: being a wife, having 3 kids, teaching school, graduate school...not to mention all the little extras like trying to maintain friendships (I am famous for not keeping in touch and forgetting to call back), keeping a moderately clean house etc. I have come to a point where I know I have to sacrifice something and slow down a little, I just haven't figured out what yet.
I know where I get this, I am a lot like my mother. She is a determined self-starter (to say the least) who takes great pride in a job well done and rises to any challenge. I think back to a time when our old house was on the market and she woke up and decided the family room ceiling needed a coat of paint before the 2 o'clock showing. I have inherited these qualities, all for which I am grateful, because who do you want on your side when there's a problem? The can-do er of course...
But along with this comes another quality, one which I battle as I go through these busy days. I have trouble sitting down. If you have been reading, this has been part of my New Year's Resolution, and I have maybe shown a little bit of improvement, but not much...it's harder than you think. I have been making coffee in the afternoons after I get everyone home from school and trying to actually sit down and enjoy it while I hang out with the girls, but here's what happens, I sit down and scan the family room and see that one picture that needs to be moved a little to the left and next thing you know I am on a ladder with the hammer and CeCe is my assistant.
This is JUST like my Mom. One of the first times Elliot came home to my house and didn't know my family very well yet, he sat down next to me and said, "5 minutes ago your Mom was going to the kitchen to make waffles and now she's outside painting a shutter." I'm not kidding, this really happened. She will often describe herself as a "One-armed paper hanger" or say, "I was shot out of a cannon." It's never a good sign when she gets up, usually the morning of a party and announces she's going to "Kick it into high gear..." Look out...
So I am a lot like this, and proud of it, but at the request of the people who have to live with me and some of my friends who love me, I have been asked to slow down. Elliot knows not to say "Slow down," rather, smart man that he is he mentioned, "It seems like your wheels are spinning a little bit," diplomatic, right? Only a normal person would react happily to her husband's concern. Not this girl, I think I responded defensively with, "What do you mean? What am I not getting done?" Overachiever that I am, I may get defensive, but I also take gentle criticism to heart. I think I may be going too fast, I'll later admit.
I have always admired how Elliot's mom can spend the entire day in her nightgown doing all of her normal household stuff and make no apologies for it. She will get up, read the paper, and then declare it a "Flip-floppy day" and keep her PJs on till bedtime. I could never do this. I get a little nervous on weekends when the sun comes up and I don't have my exercise clothes on yet. I don't have to actually exercise, but at least if I'm dressed for it I have the best of intentions. Elliot's Mom can happily sit at the dinner table for 2 hours and not seem at all worried that the kitchen is a disaster. She will even leave the kitchen a mess and deal with it the next day. Call me anal retentive, but I couldn't sleep unless I know the kitchen is clean with the dishwasher ready to run...Oh how I wish I could do this, I think I would feel a lot calmer...
In the same conversation where Elliot's Mom told us that we needed 10 minutes of silence a day, she also informed us that she learned in a meditation class that every person needs a mantra. She says this over and over to herself, "This is the day the Lord has made..." The thing is, I have a mantra, but it has succeeded at pushing me in the other, less calm direction. In fact, my mantra has only made me more driven and determined to get things done.
So we can't blame all of my can-doing on my Mother, my mantra is also to blame. When I was pregnant with the twins, I had a home nurse service come to my house to instruct Elliot, my Mom and me about how to put a shunt in my own leg and administer my anti contraction medication. She arrived and sat down with us and began her standard questioning for home visits. Her first question for me was, "Do you have running water?" What? Excuse me? Holy S*#@ there are women out there doing this who don't have running water. I don't mean to sound ignorant, but I had been so focused on myself that I hadn't stopped to consider the women out there who might be trying to do the exact same thing I am, but without all of the luxuries a brat like me is so accustomed to: running water, or a roof over their heads, or even alone. So this became my mantra. Yes, it's strange, but it carried me through a terribly difficult and harrowing pregnancy, because I knew I was doing it under the very BEST of circumstances. So yes, I was determined that I could do it.
My mantra has helped me through some of the most difficult times, because I have resolved to try and do everything I can do with a generally sunny attitude. I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad here, and I'm not minimizing what we Moms, ANY Moms go through each day, but still. My life is pretty cushy, and any time I feel overwhelmed I remind myself of my mantra and the day the visiting nurse came. It's sort of like an I can do this pep talk reminding me to buck up and quit whining. I will admit, I have been accused at work and at home of being a bit of a whiner.
I do have my moments when the mantra fails me, though. The week I was in the hospital having CeCe (a week long endeavor, typical) it was the same week of the tsunami in December 2004. Every nurse who entered my room felt the need to tell me about the lady in the South Pacific who gave birth in a tree. At one point the door to my room wasn't even closed yet and I looked at Elliot between contractions and said, "If one more person tells me about the woman who did this in a tree...." I know , yes, I can be a bit of a whiner, but any woman after 48 hours of labor would have snapped too.
Even still, I realize how busy I seem now, but was reminded of how busy I used to be, but in a completely different way. I was cleaning out over the weekend and found this really pretty notebook on my nightstand that I had kept as a journal when we first moved into this house in 2005. These days, I am busy running around doing things, way back then,I was busy doing things, but chained to the house.
My first entry was this,
June 24, 2005
I have been meaning to do this for awhile
and that was it. My first journal entry and I had only been able to jot down less than 10 words. What was I so busy doing? I had no carpools to drive, I wasn't working yet, I wasn't in school, the kids didn't have any homework? What gives? Then the real kicker was, the next entry wasn't until over a year later on July 25 of that year, and this entry was,
Sumner smeared her poop on the wall again today and I am so upset I can't even write about it.
This is no joke. I was dying when I found this. I must have blocked it out or something because I had totally forgotten this had happened. So I guess that answers my question about what I was so busy doing. Cleaning, I guess. Oh my goodness, to have 3 kids in diapers again...thank goodness that's over.
So I must consider my mantra, and how life once was around here and rest easy that I don't have any poop smeared on the wall, at least not today, anyway...
So my pic of the day is one of Elliot and me from before we had any kids. We had our one "Baby" our dog Gussie, and were out for a walk.
Notice how many things I am trying to do in this picture and it pretty much sums up how unfun my multitasking can be. I have my purse, a coffee, and a doggie canteen I was convinced Gussie needed for the stroll, and I am walking the dog. Elliot has...em...his coffee. Don't you think a leisurely dog walk would be much more pleasant that way? It's funny how one photo can say it all... I mean, was the doggie canteen really necessary? I need to keep it simple, eliminate the unnecessary, and soldier on. I keep this photo on my fridge to remind myself just how unfun multitasking can be. So I just have to slooooow down, while still maintaining my can do attitude and try not to worry about the rest.