This blog post is a long time in coming. Titles that have come to mind over the past few days include, “What You Don’t See,” “It Must Be PMS,” “On the Skids,” and “Schmooze Alert!” But I have not been able to sit down and write. It has been a week of masquerading as an extrovert. Of overextending. Of things piling up: snow, dishes, clean and dirty clothes, work, errands, details. Of slow overwhelm. And yes, of PMS – so I’m right on schedule.
Last night I finally fell apart. I extricated myself from a clingy tucked-in Aviva and could feel the tears coming as I went downstairs, my breath shortening, my throat and chest tight. Something had been building for days, already. Putting out, putting out, putting out. I avoid writing about this stuff, because I don’t want to be whiny. But what’s authentic about hiding the fact that I am tired and tense? It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful.
Here’s what is real. In the last week, I’ve been to three different gatherings – networking, celebrating birthdays, supporting local organizations – where I have schmoozed with the best of them. When I’m in those settings, people see me as positive and energetic and squinty-smiley. It’s not that my on-ness is fake; sometimes it just comes with a side effect that most people don’t see. When I was asked recently to describe my ideal afternoon, what impressed me about what came to mind was that I would spend it alone. This was a sign, to be sure. A sign that I need more time to myself. I know solitude comes at a premium for us – moms, especially.
That’s where yoga came in. I went to a class for moms on Saturday taught by the magnificent Jennifer Harris at Evolution. She read some of my writing, including As Is, which I realized is going to be the title of my self-published book. Hearing my words in this room of powerful mothers, as Jennifer called us, was humbling and slightly surreal. The class was amazing and I loved connecting with several of the women afterwards over pineapple and brownies. But part of me wanted to disappear into the walls of the place, like my former smoker self who would duck into an alley, sit with my journal near a dumpster, or behind a bush, or between cars in a parking lot. This used to be top secret. It has been two and a half years since I quit for good, but I know when that impulse to be anonymous rises it’s a teacher – some wise presence coming to tell me: Take some time. Clear some space.
When did I become this person who says yes to everything?
My car skidded yesterday, leaving a 90-year-old man stuck in a snowbank. It was the first night of Hanukkah. We got home with kids at 5:30. Lost one of Pearl’s precious mittens. Discovered there was only one egg in the fridge when we were going to have scrambled eggs for dinner because I hadn’t had a chance to think about dinner all day because I was running around too much. Realized I had forgotten to pick up some prescriptions and ran back out with Pearl after ordering pizza while Greg stayed home with V, putting up “holiday” lights outside out house and wrapping up the chocolate menorah lollipops he’d picked up as last-minute first-night presents for the girls.
I know it’s time to pay attention when I want bedtime to be over, when the sound of Aviva calling, “Mama! I pooped!” after tucking her in four times already makes me want to cry. When I look around the house and see a disaster instead of a blessed mess. So last night I lost it. I crouched down on the rug in the living room, trying to curl myself into as small a ball as possible. Closing like a flower that has gotten too much sun. A little darkness, please. And three weeks of sleep.
This time of year is all about darkness and light, isn’t it? All of my baggage about Christmas and the “Holiday Season” aside, what I do love are the lights. But this night, I just wanted a little darkness. Some quiet, dormant space. Inward and alone. I rocked like that for a while as the tears began to come. Greg appeared – poking his face up from under my clasped hands, and I felt so grateful. He asked how he could help and I managed to ask him to hold me. So he did, under my fifth-grade comforter on the couch covered in cat hair and laptops. I burrowed under that blanket against his worn, wool sweater. And cried, glad for the storm and for the shelter.
There you have it, dear you. The truth of how I’ve been. I’m thankful that even the sun gets to sleep. Thankful for darkness.