Archive for May, 2011
A few days ago I followed a link of link that led me to some mom that I don’t know who wrote a little rant on mothers always feeling like they have to compete with one another. Her main point was that whenever she complains about how hard this time of her life is, other moms are never encouraging but always say something like, “You think THIS is hard? Wait until they’re teenagers!” or something along the same lines. She was upset by how we’re always trying to outdo one another with who has the harder life. And she was wishing that just once, someone could gently say, “Don’t worry. It gets better.”
I do sincerely hope that I have never said such an insensitive thing to another mom. But here’s the thing: Does it really get better? Does it?
I know I’ve never exactly been accused of being an optimist, so you don’t have to listen to this if you don’t want to, but it doesn’t get better. It just doesn’t.
When I was eight, I hated going to bed. Hated it. Would try to think up new ways of fooling my parents every night so that I wouldn’t have to go back to that torture chamber. They never fell for it and I always ended up back in bed. It sucked. It really did. I just had to lay there, not sleeping and dwelling on how difficult my life was. At eighteen, I left my home and all those I loved to go try that thing called college that everyone says is so important. I hated it. I cried more during that time of life than all the other times put together. At twenty-eight I had three very small children, not enough money to pay the bills and a husband who was battling depression as he tried to figure out where to go from here and how to provide for his growing family. At thirty-eight, I have three not-so-small children with very busy schedules and ten thousand major decisions that need to be made on a daily basis and I’ve gone back to work full-time.
It’s hard. It’s all so hard. None of it is any less hard than the rest of it. Some days are better than others, of course. And there can be so much joy in the midst of the hardness.
So very much joy.
But it doesn’t necessarily get better. I know that. I look forward to forty-eight knowing that my children will then be dealing with adult-sized problems of their own. That will be hard. I imagine life at fifty-eight as our aging parents need extra care. Shall I go on?
When my children were little, I used to HATE when more seasoned mothers would look at my family with longing in their eyes and tell me to enjoy the time I was in because it passes so quickly. I always thought, “Who do you think you are, assuming that I’m NOT enjoying it? I AM enjoying it. I know full well that life passes quickly. I love my babies. Back off, woman.”
And now I HATE when mothers with younger children look at my family with longing in their eyes and tell me that I am so lucky to be done with diapers and tantrums and having to keep an eye on them every moment of every day. I feel like it invalidates me as a real person, living a real life. It somehow sucks the joy away.
Life changes. It sometimes changes so quickly that I can barely keep my wits about me, much less process the changes until I’ve come to a somewhat safe distance on the other side of the change. I’m especially aware of it now as I am (finally) beginning work on putting my third blog book into print. As I’m going through posts from three and a half short years ago, I am bewildered by how much has changed. It is sobering and actually somewhat embarrassing. There are things I can’t believe I wrote. Last night I sat down at the piano and played through my old notebook from high school that I used to write my songs in. Talk about embarrassing. Why, oh why, did I ever think those songs were good?
Maybe three years from now I’ll be embarrassed by this post I’m writing right here. But I bet my life won’t be better than it is right now. I bet I’ll still go in and out of good times and bad on a regular basis. I bet I’ll still love people and hurt people and get hurt by people. And I bet the sun will still rise and set and the ocean will still keep running into the land. And the God who holds it all together will still call me to take up my cross daily as I live and love and work and worship. And I’ll hold some things tight and I’ll let some things go.
And I hope that if I have the delightful privilege of spending time with you and you pour your heart out to me about how hard your life is right now…
Well, I hope that I can cry with you and pray with you and that the love would flow both ways in our conversation. And I hope there will be laughter too. And I hope we do all of that over coffee and donuts.
Or wine and cheese and bread maybe, with a side of olives.
With no pretense of one of our lives being more important than the other’s. And no superficial silliness about how it all gets better.
I came home from work sick today. Woke up with a swollen throat, took kids to school, went to work and made beautiful spreadsheets and stuff. But the pain in my throat kept getting worse, my body kept getting achier and when I realized that I couldn’t really focus on people who were speaking to me, I came home. I fell into my bed and immediately fell into a deep (but not peaceful) sleep. I dreamed about work. I dreamed that I was still there and was not feeling good and was getting ready to go home. One of my coworkers came up to my desk and started speaking to me very animatedly, with huge facial expressions and arms waving everywhere, about how some lady had just called who had a son named Mack (yes, it was with a K, unlike my nephew) and that lady had bought her son (Mack) a lizard but it turned out that Mack was allergic to lizards and now she wanted us to sue on their behalf. I just looked at my coworker, with my head spinning and my throat burning and told him I was having trouble processing what he just said and could he please send it to me in an email?
Then I walked down to the parking garage to leave and I had all three of my daughters with me. We were having a lovely, normal conversation. When we got in the parking garage, my fourteen-year old suddenly wasn’t walking with us anymore. When I turned around to look for her, she was opening the door to a pick-up truck that had the words “Professional Descent” embroidered (yes, embroidered) on the door. The words were outlined in a gilded, frilly pattern that suggested some sort of advertisement for someone who sells scented candles and the like. As Sadie got in the driver’s seat, she looked at me with a mixture of shame and contempt, put the keys in the ignition and with one last, furtive glance in my direction, she drove off.
Then I woke up and my fingers were so swollen, it took quite a bit of effort to take off my wedding ring.
And did I mention my throat hurts?
Looks like this weekend will be spent in jammies. Sigh.
But LAST weekend was amazingly full and fun! It started off with a sock hop at the girls’ school, followed by a visit from our friend, Caity of Seattle, and ended with an English Country Dance at our church that went waaaayyyy too late for a Sunday night. If all that’s why I’m sick, it was worth it.
Here are the girls at the sock hop which, coincidentally, is exactly what Sadie looked like in my dream as she drove off in the “Professional Descent” pickup truck.
She’s the one on the left. She said she decided the 50’s look wasn’t really for her, so she decided to go with the 80’s instead.
And then the visit from Caity, which always involves great conversation…
Making lots of yummy sugar cookies…
And playing lots and lots of Agricola with Plunky. We won’t talk about the two games where Caity cleaned our clocks like always. We’ll just talk about the last one. The one where Caity threw a temper tantrum…
When she blocked herself in like this…
And I won!
By a lot!!!
And then the dance. The lovely dance. It was super fun. My brother and sister-in-law and parents and old friends and new friends all came.
Whee! I get out of breath and my feet start hurting all over again, just thinking about it.
And my throat hurts, thinking about it too. Oh, wait. Maybe I’m just sick.
Because I do take pictures of all of it. I do, even though I’m so tired I want to crawl under any covers anywhere. And I know I’ll be glad I did one day. Just like I was glad on Mother’s Day when I decided to look through old albums and get all sentimental at how cute Grace was when she was three. Seriously though, she was. Cutest three year old ever. And maybe ten years from now I’ll do it again on Mother’s Day and be glad for all of it. Every bit of it from hula hoops to spring plays to senior pictures to Easter and births and baptisms and goddaughters on Mother’s Day to why the heck can’t I be normal and not be freezing all the time like all the normal people around me?
It’s a pretty good life, really. I’m glad Sophia is here to share it with us. 🙂
May is the new December. It slowly started getting almost as busy as all the Christmas activities about the time my firstborn went to kindergarten. By the time all three were in school, it had easily matched it. Now that they’re not only all in school, but the majority of them are teenagers, we’ve crossed the line into straight up crazy. I imagine I’ve still got one higher level to reach from here and that will be when I’ve got one (or more) graduating. And as long as none of them plan June weddings, then my hope is that May will slowly start working its way back down to what I really want it to be: wildflowers and Eastertide and spring storms and comfort, with lots of rich food and drink and fellowship to celebrate after the Lenten fast.
But until that day, I am swimming in craziness. And it’s not all bad, let me tell you. It’s big and it’s huge and I am reveling in it as best I can. Last Sunday, I got to be at the home of my dear friends as their sweet little Sophia made her entrance into this big, hugeness. Next Sunday, I will stand up and take vows as her godmother as she is baptized. Tonight, my two eldest daughters will perform in the opening night of what is surely going to be the best opening night ever. The other night at dinner, our youngest turned the conversation to theology and was visibly frustrated as she asked questions that she had never thought of asking before. No answers were satisfying, as answers often aren’t, and now she is swimming in her questions, knowing she is deeply loved, but not understanding much beyond that. And the fear and trembling shakes me to my core as I guide her and let her go all at once. And that’s not the only thing I’m working out on a daily basis either. I wish I could put into words these feelings that I have that overwhelm me so forcefully. Maybe someday I’ll have time to sort it all out, but until then, I’m thankful for people like Annie Dillard and Flannery O’Connor and Anthony Esolen and Linford & Karin, who do a remarkably adequate job of summing it all up for me.
Until that day, I’ll keep jumping off this cliff I wake up on every day.
Maybe when that day arrives, I’ll post pictures of all of it.