I woke up yesterday and felt like I was drowning.
It was a slow descent of sorts.
The water had been pouring down my head for awhile. Sometimes it was just a trickle and then other times a downpour. But the water had begun to collect around my ankles until one day it reached my knees then rose above my waist and was now sitting right below my chin. It could be days or mere seconds before it overtook me. It all depended on the weather.
And I could feel exactly how close I was to choking.
When my husband got home from work he could sense it too. I felt physically and emotionally done. I wasn’t angry or irrational with the children if anything I was extremely calm and understanding, but I felt distant. Like my spirit was gone and my body was just going through the motions. Do homework. Make dinner. Clean dishes. Bath bodies. Done. Done. And done. But my tank was empty and I felt immobile.
I think I spent the first 9-10 months of Lu’s first year just waking up and getting through the day. It was a survivalists approach. Don’t think too hard about all the things you can’t do or aren’t doing just do what’s right in front of you. And it worked. We survived! But it was hard. And hard can be good. It stretches us and teaches us and molds us into more capable human beings. But hard can also be very very exhausting.
It wasn’t until I stopped nursing that I realized the contrast in who I was and how I felt. How tired, how drained, and how absent I had been from the normal me.
And it’s not like our home was all doom and gloom and depressing. Or that my children felt neglected or ignored. Or that I was rocking in a dark corner every night unable to function. Most days looked good and most weekends were filled with joy and love and fun. But that’s part of who I am. That’s how I handle hard things. That’s how I carry on. That’s how I get through it. Because if I stop and think about it too long I start to feel the weight of it all and doubt begins to grow.
You can’t do this Melissa. You’re failing Melissa. You’re not giving enough Melissa.
And I don’t believe in these voices even when they hang around for a few days, tapping me on the shoulder, trying to point out all the bad things.
The last two months of not nursing have reminded me of who I am when I’m at full capacity. But I think this is why I started to drown. Instead of accepting that the me I was during Lu’s first year was me operating at full capacity for the demands presented to me I told myself that was me just surviving. Instead of seeing everything I was doing and rejoicing in accepting the day given to me, no matter how simple it looked, I told myself things like it’s going to get better. This is only temporary. It’s just a season.
And those are all true, but it doesn’t really help. Everything is temporary and seasons are continuous. Easy seasons don’t stay forever and hard seasons will always return. It’s called Life. But I feel like I cheated Lu out of a better me because I was so focused on what was next. Because her first year was hard. Because Eliana started a full day of T-K and daily pickup was sometimes impossible. Because illness ran amuck in our house for months. Endless months. Because my sister moved away. Because potty training. Because my husband was gone for weeks. Because my Dad got sick.
Because. Because. Because.
I have a problem with letting myself grieve. When I see others grieve I grieve with them. When I see myself grieve I feel weak. My life is so wonderful you guys. It’s magnificent and beautiful and perfect in our own way and so full. Full of everything I’ve ever imagined and more. My own little fairytale with a pair of converse instead of glass slippers. I love it.
And so I hate complaining because I hate complainers. But grieving is so very different than complaining. I need to let myself feel this more. I need to let my emotions play their course. I need to let it go. I need to be free of the burden that grief is weak.
I am a naturally joyful, highly optimistic, overly positive person. I don’t need to work at doing those things. They just happen. But I need to work at being sad. I need to let myself sit down and cry more often over all the things that weigh me down that I can’t change that won’t ever change and that burden the small part of my heart that I allow to carry the dark and heavy stuff. Because when I do it, when I allow myself to let it wash over me instead of puddle up at my feet until it sloshes against my chin threatening to drown me I don’t feel weak. I feel human. I feel closer to my life. Closer to others. Closer to God.
So I’m sitting down and figuring out what’s important. To me and to my household. I’m throwing all of these dumb misplaced expectations into the trash and starting over. I feel like the world has told me that as a Stay At Home Mom I should have the time and energy to cook a huge meal every night. And I listened. First, because I love cooking. Second, because everyone else said it was important.
I’d like to confess that I’m no longer cooking anything complicated on a school night. I’m saving that for weekends. Why? Because it seriously sucks up two hours of my time. The process of prepping, cooking, serving, then cleaning, and putting away. I hate it. In the writing world we call this “Killing your darlings”. It means that me must get rid of our most precious and self indulgent passages for the greater good of our literary work.
So I’m getting rid of cooking for the greater good of my children. Because I’m realizing that the time my husband and I get with them together, as a whole family, is now so precious with Eliana in school. Our influence has been dwindled down to a single hour before bed. That’s how she’ll absorb and view family 5 nights a week. And I don’t want to spend it cleaning vegetables and roasting chicken.
I want to spend it on the couch, in a big giant pile of books and games and music and love. I want to spend it asking questions and then listening to their answers. I want to spend it investing in them. Pouring into them. And loving them.
This hour has become so precious in our house. How we end the day. Not stressed, or rushing around trying to finish up homework or clean up a million little messes so we can throw them in their beds and close the door to only let out a sigh of relief and exhaustion. And then go focus on the laundry.
I hate it. It’s TOO MUCH you guys. TOO DAMN MUCH. I want more for them and for me and for our hearts. I’d venture to say that 99% of the stuff you’re stressing over as being important counts for nothing if you don’t have time to just be together and love on each other.
So I’m yanking my hand back. I’m putting it on my heart and I’m saying, “NO, THIS IS WHAT’S IMPORTANT.”
To feel. To live. And to accept each day as it’s given to me regardless of what it looks like. To love my children more and cook less. To grieve. To worry less about them eating vegetables and focus more on how they feel about themselves. To make messes. To read more books and watch less tv. To dance.
To have it all. With each day. Even when the seasons are hard.