Sometimes we forget about the hysterical or cool things that have happened while we’re out having fun into the wee hours of the morn. We especially forget if many years have passed. If you would have told me ten years ago I’d be resurrecting stories from my crazy nights out in order to up my bedtime storytelling game with my two sons, I’d have called you a liar. Nevertheless, there I was, sharing the details with the kids. Read More Here
It was interesting to peer into my young mind and relive what was unfolding inside the words. Reading my journals dating back to 1987 has been an experience.
Combing through past experiences exposed how my all-consuming inner voice was formed. It’s pretty much an alter ego and her name is Guilt. She consumes me as a working mom, a friend, a wife, a daughter, and a sister. Better yet, she’s my arch nemesis and alter ego rolled into one. Beyonce doubles as Sasha Fierce, David Bowie had Ziggy Stardust, and Bridget the Bergen became Lady Glitter Sparkles. But I’m stuck with the not-so-glamourous and sparkly version of myself . She hovers over me like I’m her whipping boy, saying to me, “It’s GUILT Bitch!” which somehow doesn’t have the same chirpy ring of Britney’s fun voice. And based on pretty much anything you read related to motherhood, it would seem a lot of other moms also get bogged down by their feelings of guilt.
A few weeks ago, my husband gave me some advice. I was running around in a million directions, trying to clean with one hand, talk on the phone in the other, play with the kids with my left foot and eat with my right. After hanging up the phone, I griped to him that I felt all jittery and mega stressed. It felt like I had just finished beer-bonging coffee.
He said, “Look at yourself. Look at all the things you were just trying to do at the same time. You’re doing all these things because you think you should do them. You go through your life doing things all the time you think you should do, but do you ever ask yourself what you actually want to be doing?”
This must be a man thing because it would seem so many men can just turn off the stress and veg out in front of the TV. I do not not seem to possess this same gift of compartmentalization. As in being able to say to myself, “Now I will relax. Later I will do X. Tomorrow I will do Z.”
No way. It all is on fire and has to be done now. That’s is the way my brain always sees it.
Anyway, after I picked my jaw off the floor from his Dalai Lama advice sucker punch , I thought about what he had just said and he did have a major point. All of the things that were causing my stress to go into overdrive were self inflicted: 1.) I had answered the phone because it was someone I hadn’t talked to in awhile, so I felt like I had to answer; even though it was hands down the worst time of day to talk. 2.) While talking on the phone, I was feeling guilty over not interacting with my kids because it felt like I hadn’t really engaged with them all week. This thought is what led me to tell them I would play legos with them, but then I answered the phone, so actually I was half playing with them, half talking on the phone. 3.) Piles of laundry were all over the place so I was carrying the basket to and from the washer/dryer with the phone cradled on my shoulder followed by plopping down to fold the clothes right next to where we were playing legos. Yes, I thought I could fold, talk on the phone, and play legos with the kids all at the same time. 4.) The kids love to tell me how hungry they are whenever I’m doing anything. So I was making popcorn, cutting up apples, and pouring glasses of water upstairs, then going downstairs during intervals of folding clothes, playing with the legos, and talking on the phone.
I’m tired just writing this. This is the stuff I do to myself ALL. THE. TIME. And it basically boils down to guilt in addition to feeling like I am available to and owe everybody something at all times.
My husband continued on in his Dahlai Lama state of mind and asked me to think of all the decisions I’ve made in my life – both big and small -current and past. Are they driven by other people’s wants or my own? Had I EVER based my decisions on what I felt like I wanted to do for myself? Or did I just default to what my brain was telling me was the “nice” thing or the “right” thing to do at that moment. He pointed out that something bigger was likely driving my guilt.
Guilt manifests itself out of different experiences, fears, and beliefs we all have. Over time these patterns are hardened and then it feels impossible to break the cycle of that nagging voice.
One night last week my attempts at falling asleep were a complete joke. The amount of times I actually got out of bed was beyond frustrating. What a comedy this would have been if you were to have watched this. It all started with two giant flies buzzing around the room keeping me up. I was alone in bed since my husband sometimes falls asleep downstairs, so it was up to me to battle it out with them.
There was no way I was falling asleep with these annoying bastards alive in my room. They kept landing by my head which was also driving me insane.
I got up and grabbed a magazine and chased them across the bed, over to my nightstand, back to my windows, my mirror, and my dresser. When I came to realize I just did not possess the speed of Mr. Miyagi with my magazine, I went into the bathroom to grab a can of aerosol hairspray to end them with.
On my way out of the bathroom, I noticed the cat was crouched down and ready to pounce while staring at the bottom of the oven.
Great. I had an inkling there was a mouse under there. For the moment though, I had the flies to tackle.
Once I was back in the bedroom the hairspray did the trick and I cursed myself for not having thought of that 30 minutes ago.
I climbed back into my bed pooped. Once I lied down I remembered the cat in the kitchen and got back up again to close my door so I didn’t have to hear what might ensue later.
The bed welcomed me with the warmth and softness that you get so excited to cocoon yourself into right before you fall asleep.. Just as I was drifting off, I felt something crawling across my chest.
I clicked on the light and found it was just a tiny ant. OK, just an ant. No biggie. But where there’s one, there’s typically several more. My mind started filling with all types of scenarios involving me asleep and covered head to toe in ants. Then it felt like there was sand from the beach by my toes. Oh crap, what if it wasn’t sand and one of the kids had eaten goldfish in our bed and now there were crumbs? What if there was a sea of ants I was falling asleep on top of? I sprang from the bed-yet again.
Ripping off the comforter and top sheet, I scoured the bed looking for the ant farm that must be there. I did not find one other creepy crawly – thank GOD.
Now I had to pee.
I opened the door and glanced at the cat. He was still assuming the about-to-tackle position. I went to the bathroom and headed back into my room to try -yet again- to fall asleep.
This time, I accidentally left my door open.
I fell asleep, but apparently not very deeply because an hour or so later I woke from a loud sound in the kitchen. My mind took a minute to wake up and process what I thought might be happening, but it was too late. Seconds after I heard the loud sound, I felt the cat jump on my bed.
I clicked on the light and there on the bed was my cat with a wriggling brown mouse hanging from his mouth. I leaped out of bed and tried to coerce my cat out of the room. This, of course, did not work. He then let the mouse go, which thankfully was dazed and confused. It did not run far before he snatched it back up.
At that moment I picked up the cat and ran through the hallway to the kitchen door and tossed him outside. He’s an indoor/outdoor cat-so it’s all good. Don’t worry, I didn’t just like throw an indoor cat out on the street.
I shuffled back to my bed thinking about the night’s events. Flies, an ant, and a mouse had paid the bedroom a visit-the universe was surely conspiring against the idea of a good night’s sleep.
Finally, for what felt like the hundredth time, I crawled into bed and fell asleep.
A couple hours later, I awoke to a herd of elephants coming at me. I mean I awoke to my 7 year old stomping through his room and into mine and bursting through my door to tell me he was hot, wide awake, he was up for the day, and wanting to hang out and chat.
Rolling over, I searched the nightstand groggily with my eyes closed for my phone to check the time. The numbers seemed to be laughing at me as I read them: 4:45 a.m. I barked at him to get into my bed and try to calm himself and fall back to sleep.
After trying for close to an hour (trying= tossed and turned, definitely convinced me he has restless leg syndrome based on the number of times he moved his legs, mentioned every random thought that crossed his mind including the dream he just had, and how hot his bed was, and when his next playdate going to be, etc. etc. ) I finally gave up and shouted with the rasp comparable to that of a bear who had just awoken from hibernation,
“Get a screen or watch a movie!”
Fortunately, he liked that idea and left the room and remembered to shut the door for me.
Ah, Momma can catch some winks for at least (I roll over to check the time on my phone again and it’s now 5:40) a half hour before I have to get up for work.
Curling up and stoked for that half hour and just as the sleep veil starts to set in, I hear my bedroom door open.
Enter my 4 year old.
I lift the covers for him and he slides in and lies there quietly with his big blue eyes heavily opening then shutting, opening then shutting. I stare at him as if trying to will him back to sleep so I can just SQUEEZE in this last 30 minutes.
He says something softly and I lean in and ask him to repeat it so I can hear.
“It’s wake up time Mommy.”
I GIVE UP.
While we’re all on good behavior most of the time out in public, you know that there are a select few closest to you that see you let it all hang out with your kids. But hold up. What about the people that see the worst version of you that you don’t really think about? Yikes right? Yeah-think about that for a second.
Recently, I had some God awful upper respiratory virus with some body aches sprinkled in and while I called out sick to work, I still had to drag my butt out of bed and drive my kids to school because we can’t call out sick to the Mom job. My husband goes into work early this day of the week, so I am always on drop off duty this particular day.
I ran through the how-to-get-my-sick-achey-bod-out-of-bed scenarios in my head: Did I have the energy to grab a baseball hat? Nope, that would require standing on my tippy toes to reach it in the closet-even my toes hurt.
If it wasn’t on the top of my closet area, it would likely be buried at the bottom of my closet, which meant I would need to dig for it. This equals bending over -nope definitely can’t bend over with my head full of all this mucus and all this achiness. Did I mention the aching? .
How greasy was my hair? I would look in the mirror and decide.
How would I get dressed? Leave pajama top on-it’s not too noticeable. Will somehow finagle pulling jeans on. Maybe the kids could help me pull them on? I lugged my body around like a ton of bricks and ever so slowly got the jeans on, slipped shoes on, and opted for combing my hair through twice and walking out the door.
Due to getting out the door being the biggest pain in the booty with my two kids, I often open the door as the “indicator” that we’re about to head out. I figure my kids will someday recognize this open door symbol and skip their way to the car, get in, and buckle up with smiles on their faces and halos over their heads. A woman can dream right?
When I opened the door to set the “indicator” that we were getting ready to leave, I noticed it was a beautiful day and my neighbor had her windows open. On the way out the door, I went to scoop up my son’s folder and put his homework in it. Then I saw a late library book notice from the school. It was $70 if we did not return the books. The two most expensive books had been in his backpack for a month. What was even more maddening was he had been reminded every single day to return the books by Yours Truly. I was trying to shout at him with my newfound sore-throat man voice and hobbled like Quasimoto to his room where I started crazily tossing books from his bookcase. Dammit-I was going to find the other late books that were not in his backpack. This may have looked like the wire hanger scene from Mommy Dearest- just with books flying everywhere and me shouting at the bookcase like it had just murdered someone. Oh yeah…and…our windows were open.
Take two of trying muddle out the door and my 4 year old son decides he doesn’t want to get in the car. He circles the car. He goes left then I go right and vice versa.
I start repeating over and over getting louder each time, “Mommy doesn’t feel good. Mommy doesn’t feel good. MOMMY DOESN’T FEEL GOOD!” I was hoping if I kept saying that he’d feel bad and finally get in the car.
Aaaaand now he’s headed for the flower garden. He’s going to play with the flowers in the garden and run back and forth from the flowers to the car. When he makes it to the car he’s going to write his name in the condensation on the window- because why not? To a 4 year old, we have ALL the time in the world. I wish buddy.
He’s hysterically laughing of course. Really? Mamma don’t play that right about now. Mamma wants to be IN BED. What probably sounded and looked so cute to everyone else on the planet including my neighbors felt like hell. My pounding headache felt like it was talking at me, “Must… get water.. Must… find bed. Must… lie down.”
With my Pee-Wee Herman meets Wolfman voice I growl at my son to “Get. In.The.Car.” The scary voice works.
As I lean down to buckle him into his booster seat, the car door (which is not fully propped open) begins to close just in time to double-combo smack me in the head and shoulder. F***!
You know when something hurts so bad like stepping on a lego, or hitting your head on something, or stubbing your toe? And you know that hot and angry feeling you get just as the pain sets in? YEP. That was this moment. I think I did some version swearing, and kicking the car door. Whatever I did, I’m sure I looked nuts.
With spring being here and summer fast approaching, both sets of my neighbors on either side of our house have their windows open more often than not. It dawned on me that my neighbors must think I am the mother from HELL. They hear the worst version of this mom right here every…single…day whenever I am trying to get my kids into the car. And this day was particularly worse than those days because of how bad this virus was kicking my butt.
My absolute least favorite time of each day when the worst version of myself is visiting is when I am attempting to get my sons into the car to go somewhere. It’s typically a 5 to 10 minute fiasco with lots of shouting. And oh how I hate a nag! But to BE one…that’s worse. When it’s time to get in the car – it’s time for The Nagmeister.
I’ll have to sprinkle in a “Good Job” or an “I love you” the next time one of my kids gets their butt into the car without a hassle just so my neighbors realize I’m not Mommy Dearest all the time. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My kids don’t get into the car until I start shouting. It was a cute thought while it lasted.
One of my favorite movies is Sliding Doors (1998) with Gwyneth Paltrow as the lead role. The movie takes us through her life in two ways. One half of the film shows how her life unfolds when she makes the train, the other half of the movie is what happens when she misses the train. I think the reason I love this movie so much is because it’s both timeless and incredibly thought provoking.
It’s fascinating to think about the many different paths life can take. Recently, I had the pleasure of hanging out with various old friends whom I haven’t seen in awhile. The conversations were some of the most interesting I’ve had in a long time. I felt an immense amount of admiration while hearing some of their stories. Career accomplishments they’ve made these last few years, some had bucket list trips they had taken or are about to take, others were growing their families or had just bought their first home. Some of them had started out with very little and have ended up quite successful. Others needed some help along the way due to the economic crash and had finally felt like they’d turned a corner. Some were living back under their parent’s roof and have now purchased their own homes and are more appreciative than ever of what they can now call their own. Watching people grow over the years and seeing who they become is one of the beautiful things in life.
Most people don’t see themselves as extraordinary. Meanwhile, if they only knew how far they’ve come! As the listener, hearing these stories made my heart grow two-fold. People are out there working hard at life and damn, I want them to know these unique paths they’re on are all a pretty big deal! People need to take a moment and reflect on where they were 5 years ago versus where they are now. Be proud. Seriously. You’re killin’ it!
I look at my husband and how hard he has worked on his business. The path he chose actually lead us to Connecticut. That was my Sliding Doors moment: to stay in Chicago or not to stay. My path forked and while I was unsure about starting over again, I was sure I was in love, so I took a leap of faith.
These paths we all take aren’t 100% ours though. In part we owe thanks to the supporters that said the things we needed to hear or maybe the things we didn’t want to hear to make it to where we are.
Looking back on the night before I moved, my mother said some words of encouragement to me. She was probably wondering how I would be across the country, on my own with my boyfriend of only 5 months, no job lined up, a roommate I didn’t know yet, and so much uncertainty that lay ahead of me. As it turns out, if she was nervous about my choice, she did not let on that she was. Instead she was excited for me, she told me she was convinced I would marry this guy, that she felt it was the right call, and that it was pretty awesome I’d be living near a beach and not too far from New York City. She 100% supported my decision. It was just the boost I needed to go forth and see what was in store for the next chapter of my life.
So here I am on Chapter 37 of my life and that little decision I made turns out to have been one of the best.
It got me thinking about the decisions my sons will make and where their lives might take them.
The other day I pulled into our driveway and both my sons were dancing out front. They had a little speaker set up (thank you bluetooth) and a sign taped to the speaker that said “Please give us Money”. After I stopped laughing at their cute creative way to make a dollar, I quietly watched them. I don’t know how long I stood there, but I tried to encapsulate the moment.
I took in their blonde fluffy hair, their face expressions, and their moves while jamming out with wild abandon. I thought about the men they will grow to eventually be. How will they choose to spend their days? Will they live far away from us? Will they want to call us or have nothing to do with us? I wondered if they would choose to be married or stay single, to travel the world, or settle down and have families. Most of all I wondered if as their parent I could somehow bottle this carefree happiness that they embodied in this moment and make sure it stays part of them into adulthood.
For now, while they are young, it’ll be fun to talk about what they want to do or be or what they like and don’t like. And then of course when they’re teenagers I can look forward to making them watch Sliding Doors with me. I’m very much looking forward to that.