It’s been 55 minutes. 55 minutes since I handed over the children and the trajectory of the 3485th snow day this season to my husband. I handed him the baby monitor that was silent only because I had the thing turned all the way down but the stupid little light bar was a constant shade of toddler-is-screaming-red. Not that I needed the monitor. He filled the house with screams and sobs of “Mommy!” because he didn’t want to nap and after going in there to settle him down about a dozen times in an hour I had given up. Though ‘given up’ is almost too active a description for what I did because I wouldn’t call it a conscious decision that I folded my legs under me in the big red armchair and stared at the screen I’d opened on my lap, mindlessly typing words that had come to me the night before as if maybe they might form a story that had little to do with the snow and the cabin fever and the screaming child and this feeling I’ve got right now that there is nothing steady around me and so instead of taking charge, and living with intent, I’m falling fast into the abyss.
Now it’s been 62 minutes. 62 minutes into these couple of hours that I get today to sit in a room by myself but, more importantly, to work. That is what I am supposed to be doing with this time. Work. I have things I need to write. Things I want to write. I have story ideas that I’ve transferred from one page of my to-do list book to the next for enough weeks that it might be faster just to write the darned things and move on with life. I also have time sheets to fill in and emails to return and submission opportunities to add to my calendar. And I have these couple of hours today to get to it all if I’m really efficient and focused. Or, if I’m honest with myself about my humanness, to most of it.
But in the first 55 minutes, I read. I dove into Facebook and I clicked and I read. And I lingered over inspirational message, of which my Facebook feed has many, and tried to breathe them in to shift my perspective. There are, we all know, many worse things in life than back-to-back snow days, children with loud voices who are stir crazy, and a toddler who won’t nap. There are worse things than two straight months of more or less not working because the house is always full and the streets are always white or someone else is sick or the car needs to be fixed (again) or, or or. And yes, I know I’m not a horrible mother. And yes, I can do this. And, of course, this day is a gift. And absolutely I will look back three, four, five years from now, maybe even next year, and wish I could get back just one of these days when we’re all here together, cooped in but together, when they want to hang out with me and have me paint their faces and take turns dumping flour and sugar into a bowl and then serve me play dough cookies and tea. I’m longing for that even now when I’m still in it and if you don’t know what I mean then you haven’t been stuck inside with your children nearly enough this winter.
But I had sunk to a place that even inspirational quotes spread across images of suns setting or rising couldn’t bring me back from. And I wasn’t ready to write about it here, yet. So I tried to write out all of the really bad stuff into the journal I use for morning pages even though we’re winding our way into late afternoon by now and thinking about morning pages just reminds me that I let my alarm ring this morning until it stopped ringing all on it’s own but my phone still flashed with the alarm screen when I finally woke up to look at it. Which of course reminds me that I could have started this day far differently than I did if I had gotten up and written actual morning pages in the morning when the sky was dark and they day still stretched ahead. But I didn’t. I wanted to write all of the really bad stuff in my journal so that I wouldn’t come here and write it because when I come here to write, I publish. And I’m a bit tired of the same old tune I’ve been singing, that this is hard. We know it’s hard. You know it’s hard. You don’t need me to share my snow day sob stories to remind you. I’m sure you’re feeling it all on your own. And there is more to motherhood than hard, isn’t there? There is love and sweetness. And memories and closeness. And small wins that keep you moving and instill in you this belief that through the stumbles you might actually be on the right path. There were those things today. Little people in capes running around the house fighting invisible bad guys. Empty purple bowls of invisible food and matching cups with invisible tea left for me outside the bathroom door. Ordering ‘the specialist’ at her play dough cookie shop (she means ‘the special) and delighting her by pretending to voraciously gobble up the entire thing. Giving them popcorn at lunch and a freshly baked cookie afterwards because why the hell not and then basking in the little bit of good will it generated (until, of course, nap time arrived and the screaming began).
Yes, there is more than hard. But has it occurred to you that so much of the not-hard stuff is invisible?
And man if the hard isn’t so damn heavy. And I don’t know how to shrug it off when it builds up this high. And so instead I shrink down under it and begin wonder if I was built for this life. I begin to modify ‘yes I am a good mom’ with ‘only sunny spring days, actually just on sunny spring Fridays, when everything flows just as routine demands and the kids are in a good mood and nobody has been sick or upset in days and the nanny is here to handle nap time.’ And then I realize that I just described a day that actually doesn’t exist. So now what do I do?
It’s been 103 minutes now. The family has ventured out into the white world and the house is quiet for a breath, maybe two, but then they’ll be back to pick me up to go to dinner, which I’ve been looking forward to because oh do we need to eat some pizza and color on menu-drawings of Venice and I think I’ll sit with my back to the door so that I can look into their eyes instead and remind myself of the times we’ve eaten here in Spring and then wandered down the street for ice cream. I didn’t believe in those days last March either. But they came. I do feel lighter in Spring. Especially Fridays in Spring. When it’s sunny.
110 minutes now and this is where I leave you. I have work to do before they get home.
“Editor’s note” – I wrote this on Friday afternoon at a particularly low point when it felt like this winter and string of snow days would never end. I scheduled it to post today and then over the weekend, I nearly deleted it. Because, of course, we did go eat pizza on Friday night and I did sit with my back to the door and I did feel better afterward. And then Saturday dawned and felt like Spring and Sunday dawned the same and it’s not Friday but I am feeling lighter. So I almost deleted these words written in the heat of the hard moment. But we can’t really delete the hard moments. And I do believe that each time I get brutally honest about the hard, those words reach someone just when they need them most. So, you who needs these words, these are for you. Your spring will come too. Promise.