A couple of years ago, a friend suggested I take a daily written inventory – a grown up diary, if you will. At the time, I felt overwhelmed with my life and, come to see it now, I was not very happy from day to day even though I had everything I’d ever wanted. One of the suggestions was to ask myself did I pack all I can into the stream of life today?
I thought it was a throw-away question. The more important questions being whether I’d abstained from “bad” behaviors, like yelling at my husband or gossiping or judging others. Like I’m a “good” mom/wife/daughter/sister/worker/friend report card. Except now that I’m grown up, I grade myself, kind of thing. It ends up that this stream of life thing cuts through all my B.S. like a joy-finding Jedi light saber. Because that’s what joy is, right? Joy is in spite of everything, including me and my usually skewed perspective of what is actually happening in my life at any given moment.
Last night, I came home and my husband was having a hard time. With life. I get it. Against my better judgment, I suggested he get out of the house for the evening, connect with friends maybe even get Five Guys for dinner.
My power source for this seemingly magnanimous gesture was one that usually gets me into a world of trouble. I will “power through,” because I’m too tired, because things aren’t going my way, because other people don’t understand, because I am uncomfortable, you get the idea. I tense up as if for battle or as if for a marathon or as if for action. And, it usually leads me somewhere unintended. With my family, it leads me to jumping into the self pity boat and rowing into the middle of a lake, where nobody can get me and I can’t hear or see anybody at the shore. And, frankly, no one in their right mind would row out to assist me because I’m throwing a fit on that boat.
On a good day. On a bad day, I yell at my 4 year old for being a 4 year old and then feel so bad that when my husband comes home I make sure he knows that he is responsible for Everything That Has Ever Happened To Me. (I sometimes surprise even myself with my – frankly – genius for linking cause and effect like that.)
My trigger for self pity is so easily tripped at times like this – Anytime Things Don’t Go My Way. Last night it happened about 1 hour in when my 4 year old dragged the laundry basket into the living room to help me sort clothes. Prior to this point I had been congratulating myself on what an awesome person I was for this magnanimous gesture for my husband, how lucky he was to have me in his life. It was between the squat down, then up, folding clothes in mid-air (NOT my usual M.O. for clothes folding, which is an art) on account of my 4 month old daughter in the Bjorn, that I looked down at my husband’s clothes and I hated them. I struggled not to hop off the bank and into that well worn familiar boat. It’s periwinkle blue. And, I kinda love it. I would start rowing out, then change my mind and row back in, but not get fully out of the boat, pondering what I should do. Then traffic in Georgetown was bad and for those 15 minutes after which I’d expected him to be home, I thought I don’t think this marriage is working out after all. Yup, I made the split second decision that I was definitely rowing out to the middle of that fucking pond.
This morning when I considered whether I’d packed all I could into the stream of life yesterday, to my surprise, my very certain answer was a resounding yes. How on earth does that happen? My heart beamed.
You know what I actually did yesterday? I gave my baby girl a bath during which she had an intense reflux incident, which was scary – I thought she’d stopped breathing – and I was able to be there, pull her out of the tub, help her through and comfort her. I was able to immediately call our wonderful pediatrician and talk through with her what happened. I was able to spend time with my 4 year old folding laundry and listening to his little 4 year world in his little voice which still sounds like a baby’s. I was able to color (well, scratch a brown crayon with my left hand) with him, which made him so happy. And, I got to watch him play with his dinosaur sticker activity book and he even let me do one sticker. Best of all, the 3 of us were inseparable, (a) because of the Bjorn and (b) because my 4 year old is going through a fear phase and he doesn’t want to be left alone for a single minute. I got to be there for it all. My husband came home happy and relaxed. And, before I went to bed, I had hurriedly rowed my boat back to shore, jumped out of it urgently and texted him that I was glad he went, that we had been just fine and that I loved him.
I don’t want to be alone in the middle of the lake anymore. Actually, I don’t want to be in the lake at all, but if I am on the lake, I don’t want to be so far in that I can’t hear people who love me speaking to me from the shore. Or, if I’m so far in that I can’t hear them, I want my family to want to row out to me because I’m not losing my shit throwing the oars off the side and tying them down with rocks.
The featured image is a photography of “Portrait of Pablo Picasso” by Juan Gris painted in 1912. The painting is in the public domain of the U.S. because it was published before 1923 and is in the public domain in the source country since it has been 80 years since Juan Gris’ death.