Brace yourselves, because I might sound like an Adele song in a few minutes time.
Actually, I’m not even worried about that…because maybe it’s a good thing?
I have exactly two existential crises every day.
One at about 2 pm, and then one again around my children’s bedtime.
Around 2 in the afternoon, I realize that my children are going to be home from school shortly.
So I ask myself if I would rather spend the last hour of my day with just a little bit less chaos than normal, thoroughly cleaning every part of my house that I can manage? This way, I don’t have to try to do it while my children lurk behind me, leaving their veggie straw crumbs and smudgey fingerprints all over everything they touch.
Or, do I want to sit on the couch, with a pile of carbohydrates in front of me, watch an episode of something mildly entertaining on Netflix, and actually chill??
It’s the greatest toss up a parent faces: rest or productivity? Both answers are correct. But both answers are also wrong. There’s regret either way, so choose wisely. Who made this game anyway?!
My crisis at nighttime, though, is different.
I usually fall just shy of lovingly and ceremoniously putting my children to bed. I opt instead for the, “the only reason to be downstairs is an absolute emergency,” speech before I blow a kiss, flick off the bedroom light and close the door.
I turn left after hitting the bottom step, and I see a house in front of me that has somehow imploded in the last three hours despite the large part of the day I spent tidying it. This is around when I have to try not to lose it.
I find the gritty crumbs, and the crumpled pairs of socks left on the floor next to the sneakers that didn’t quite make it back into the shoe basket.
The training in life skills that we are giving our children hasn’t quite reached a level of osmosis yet, the concepts not fully etched into their daily consciousness. Some do, like the please’s and thank you’s, and those sweet, gentle kisses on my cheek for no reason at all.
Enough to melt the heart of stone.
The rest, though? Not always so much.
Which is why I sometimes step on Legos, and identifiable sticky substances on my way to the kitchen to scrape off flecks of food stuck to the surface of my stove, and to finish cleaning up from dinner.
As a person coping with anxiety right now, the familiar hot flashes start to creep up, the tightness in my chest that I was sure wasn’t there five minutes ago begins to coil itself into a new, but all too familiar hissing knot.
I wonder why I even bother.
I wonder how I can help my children better understand the lessons we are trying to teach them when so much of their young minds are filled with the knowledge of Pokemon, and the wingspans of the largest bats in the world. Yes, this is a thing we discuss at length around here.
I wonder what other people without small children are doing.
I wonder what I’m even doing.
The freedom to just sit and simply unwind before bed is a luxury I haven’t had in years. Much like privacy in the bathroom. Or the satisfaction of having empty laundry baskets once a batch of clean clothes are put away.
Worst is how the prevailing feeling that I have accomplished something each day is one that I haven’t felt the satisfaction of in quite a while. That novelty that my tasks at hand are finished, or can at least be set aside for the next nine hours to make way for rest.
I fall into this pit so many times.
The pen of my mind begins its dark, recognizable scrawl as I pick off food stuck to the prongs of each fork in the sink, etching unkind words into my confidence the way a hot prong seers flesh.
I’m not good enough or diligent enough or productive enough or thin enough or joyful enough. I mark myself with each flick of my pen. I name myself with each shortcoming.
And this, friends, is precisely why I occasionally need the positive voices in my subconscious to sound like something like Adele; I need a chorus of confidence and truth to rain down on me when I try to remind myself of how great I am at what I do.
It felt awkward to write that sentence, to think of proclaiming that I actually believe that I am a good mother. How graceless or arrogant it seems when actually, it is a statement that can only be uttered because of profound grace.
These words I whisper to myself, in my own voice, is the poison in my well. Poison I would never want my children to taste or drink. Words I would go to war with to save my children from, and yet I spill them out carelessly all over myself, and then I blame myself for that, too?
Do I let myself feel the rhythm and hum of those words that proclaim me as more than a failure? Do I know that I need the loudest and strongest singular voice to drown out the dozens of pointed accusations hurled my way when I’m alone and lost in my own mind?
I need to follow that voice out of the hazy mist, back to some place where things are upright, where the only meter stick we measure ourselves by is one of love, forgiveness and hope.
The beat that calls us is how we know that we still feel.
Sometimes, it is that still, unwavering voice that says no, none of this is true. Other times, it is the most soulful vibrato that you could imagine; it is one who roars back. I never know why sometimes it is one or the other, why sometimes it is steady, why sometimes it is thundering.
They alternate almost instinctively and yet cohesively.
I try to let those words wash over me, through me, to save me from myself.
To know that I am okay.
And with each listen,
I try again to believe them,
And mark myself anew.