Yesterday was the kind of day that triggers my need for time, or more sinister, ignites my sense that I don't ever get any time. It was a snow day. The marriage of work and home becomes brittle on snow days, as the things I needed to do for work, the people who I had to talk to still blink at me from my calendar, while the girls' faces glow from the sensation of getting away with something and the day suddenly having new possibilities; I resent both, which nearly suffocates me with guilt.
If I can stay ahead of things I keep panic at bay, which is why after the pre-dawn alert from school I considered things to do. I plotted chores for the girls between snow day fun -- unload the dishwasher, have pancakes from scratch, play a video game, check the cat litter, build sledding hills, color at the table. Meanwhile my plan was to dust and oil shelves, clean windows, draft emails, sweep the floors, clean the fridge, do a set of sit ups and push ups. Smack in the middle of the day there was also a dentist appointment. This could have been a huge snafu for the foot of fresh snow on top of the 17″ that had fallen a few days ago, all the while more snow was falling, but it wasn't.
The dentist appointment was a huge triumph of "They aren't taking new patients until August" shifting to "They have an unexpected opening on Monday." The snow day meant that Briar wouldn't be marked as an early dismissal and I wouldn't have my work day fractured. The girls were wonderful and easy about trekking through the snow and they were characteristically charming and delighted the staff in the office.
By dinner time we'd had a rowdy family sledding extravaganza, complete with one run with Beso in my lap. I was feeling great, and yet there is still something that nips at me. Last night before heading to bed I launched a tweet:
I don't understand how after a day when I truly conquered the demons of feeling like I'm not good, productive, or loving enough, I still ended up in the mirror thinking that I was coming up short. It isn't specifically about body, nor is it about marriage, or my work, or about parenting, it's me. I have to believe that the judging and the seismic shifts in how I perceive myself are rooted in the disregard I have for actively cultivating a sense of peace beyond my role as a wife, mother, business owner, or citizen.
I asked people on Facebook the other day what they considered the hardest part about self-care. The answers came fast.
These comments came from men and women, people with kids and people without, people who comment on all my stuff, and people I never knew were listening. There were different interpretations to the questions. I was blown away. I wasn't alone, we aren't alone.
Being forgiving to myself.
Letting go of the guilt and doubt.
Prioritizing the time.
Letting go of fears and worry.
Taking the time and mental space for self-reflection.
Not feeling guilty about it (because there are a million other things to do).
Hearing what my heart wants above the noise of everyday life.
Actively looking for good that's there somewhere, no matter how bad it gets.
Not feeling guilty about blocking out those that are toxic to your life, even when they "belong" in your life.
Letting go of past wrongs.
All of the other hearts and well-being I am trusted with caring for.
Prioritization is hardest for me, I think. And then I logically know it's important, but then I feel guilt for doing it.
Making the time to take care of yourself and making it a priority above other seemingly more important things. Easier said than done, right?
Finding where the line exists between true conditional love, and simply giving everything away.
Making the time. Remembering to do that, because it's important.
Knowing what I want.
Feeling like I am putting the needs of my family behind mine.
I began to wonder how we get to this place that is so far from childhood, wholly disconnected from our most basic needs -- forgetting to eat, denying ourselves food, shoveling food in to fill a void that is nowhere near our stomach, or ignoring the flutters of desire to play or rest. When did a workout become an extra? How does what we say to ourselves mutate from, "I'm awesome" to "I'm an idiot"? How is it that Finley recognizes the range of emotions without judging beyond placing happy at the forefront? Why are we ashamed of wanting to be happy or of what makes us happy?
I watched the red notifications keep coming.
My mom's quote, "There is no room for bullshit in my soul," is a good first filter.
It's hard not to feel guilty for putting yourself first. But, as a mom of 4 I find that when I am well it trickles down quickly.
Feeling like I too deserve a break. Like if I want to stop and read, or take a long bath when I have laundry and dishes and work to do that should be okay.
Waiting until the pain of the status quo is bad enough to override the fear of the unknown.
Putting myself on the top of my list. I know I should, I really, really, do, but knowing it and doing it are two different things.
Clearing away the noise -- from so many sources -- telling me how I should think and feel. Staying calm, quiet long enough to hear what my heart actually wants and needs.
Admission of what that "is." It's like when someone asks you "what do you really want to do?" How can you know what that is when all you have ever done is work on making sure everyone else is happy and the job is done? It almost does not seem like a fair question.
What does that even look like? I can't make a move for myself without feeling like a teenager sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. And then I always feel guilty and rushed, the noise of everyday responsibilities and mommy duties buzzing in my ear until I return to them.
I still don't have answers, sitting here needing to pee and not getting up to do so. I knew I needed to get these words out, if just to be able to revisit them at some point for a gentle, "See, Manda, it's okay. Everyone needs time."
I let Sean take the girls to the bus stop this morning so that I could hang back and do a few push-ups. The burn in my arms centered me, reminding me of my strength and taking my thoughts inward, away from external judgement and quieting my internal judgement.
I am realizing that an aspect of growing up has been leaving the fear of monsters under the bed behind, only to have the monsters in my head keep my scared. I'm ready to run toward instinct, even if it's scary and even if it feels counter-intuitive. It's still there, I just need to make it across the room.
What do you say? Do you want to come with me?