Tonight, the girls and I were like the Wandering Jews of Amherst. It was ninety-five degrees, my apartment was a half-packed disaster, Aviva was hobbling around doing her “old grandpa walk,” bouncing back quickly from surgery but recovering nonetheless.
I ran out to get more popsicles and pudding for them and wound up doing some errands with my soon-to-be house-manager hat on, fending sweet but incessant calls from Pearlie asking me what kind of popsicles I was getting. By the time I got back home, I was frazzled. And it all came pouring out in lecture form, triggered by back-to-back Netflix episodes and sheer exhaustion.
Finally I just went into the bathroom and stripped down and got into the shower–my first since Thursday morning I just realized–and let the icy cold water wash over my tears.
Breaking point, that moment when it’s just too much and I feel like I can’t. Just can’t. do. all of this. alone.
Then my sister called and said she’d help me finish packing this week, and suggested we go sleep at my parents’ house in the air-conditioned bedroom there. Huh, I thought. Not a bad idea. So we packed up for the night and went over there, only to remember that their air conditioner is broken, then packed it up again and drove over to her house–she’s away for the night and has central air. On the way, we stopped off at the corner store for sodas, a rare indulgence. The array of chips caught Aviva’s eye, which gleamed as she said, “This would be a good night to pig out.”
And so we got back into the stuffy car with a big bag of Doritos and two cans of Fanta. My sister’s awesome housemate greeted us warmly, offering us a bag bing cherries. I knew he’d been reading my stuff online, and so inscribed for him the one copy of “The Inside of Out” I had in my possession; a few minutes later he came into the kitchen with a $20 bill, which I hadn’t asked for or expected.
Now, the girls are happily camped out on the couch with their drinks and chips, and I’m sitting in the backyard, enjoying the breeze as the day cools down. As I cool down. As we all chill out, literally and emotionally, and I remember for the umpteenth time that our best times seem to come almost predictably on the heels of the fall-aparts–as often mine as theirs.
Alternating between capable and overwhelmed, my thoughts went back to something I read the other day by Danielle LaPorte:
Ban “overwhelmed” from your vocabulary. Refuse it entry to your psyche. You’re bigger than that.
Just be, you know, whelmed (this is best said with a Jewish, Brooklyn accent).
A Jewish, Brooklyn accent is usually a good idea. So is a freezing cold shower. So is the radical notion of lowering my expectations, and once again ditching my idea of how it’s supposed to be. So here we are, taking the easy way out in whatever form it presents itself.
Speaking of Jewish, Brooklyn accents, there’s a family story goes like this:
Thanksgiving, 1997. Three generations dancing to Leonard Cohen, our last gathering in that Tribeca loft there before my Aunt Nancy died. I put my arm around my grandmother, who was in her late 80s at the time. “Grammy, do you want some dessert?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, not missing a beat. “It could be worse.”
And so it goes, just like that. It could be worse. It could be a lot of things. Next time someone asks me if I’m overwhelmed, next time I tell myself I’m overwhelmed, next time I flip out over screen time and the illusion of wall-to-wall responsibilities I can’t possible handle, I’m going to channel Grammy and Danielle LaPorte. I’m going to pop open a can of Fanta and eat another handful of Doritos. I’m going to let my kids watch TV until they drop and I’m going to love them in all the ways I know how and trust that they got the mama they need, whelmed by the fact that it could always be woyse.
No wonder folks who routinely dip into ice cold water live such long lives.