Over this past year, my WordPress account has gathered an awful lot of dusty posts. Stories, musings, and miscellaneous happenings that I deemed relatively noteworthy, but just never found the time note. More recently, these sad and forgotten pages have been replaced by mere titles, and lately even photographs… Snapshots of marked moments that will hopefully, one day, become anecdotes worthy of the elusive “Publish” button, but are yet to be given much thought.
Of such unfinished posts, one had me debating why I bother to write in the first place. With so much going on and so little time, really… What is the point?
Well… besides the obvious creative outlet, external process, extension of empathy, cry for help, window to the soul, pouring out of the heart, lighter-but-deeper look at life, laugh-or-cry, call for solidarity and the fact I clearly think I’m freakin’ hilarious… I concluded that I also just don’t want to forget. As the wife of a Church leader who will, hopefully, one day see her energy restored and her capacity increase, I don’t want to forget what this stage of life feels like. This gloriously manic, messy, yet beautiful stage of life that I will no doubt gloss over and pine after if I ever make it to the teenage years.
Yes, I want to make sure I record and remember what it feels like to be me right now.
What it feels like to tumble belatedly into Church, outnumbered and undone; whilst one child runs down the aisle screaming “Daddy”, the other hijacks a (thankfully, stationary) motorised scooter and the tiny one has sharted up her back. (Note: I also want to remember exactly how it feels when our very own Charity Barnum moves quietly from her pew into ours, with a smile that simply says, “I’ve got you.”)
What it feels like to say “yes” to something, because it’s well within your passion and skill set, only to find when the time comes that you have no passion, skill or set to speak of and feel capable of little more than crawling under something dark and going to sleep.
What it feels like to have such severe Baby Brain that you forget real, detailed conversations and have to be reminded, rather frustratingly, of the basics at the most inopportune moments. (You know, like when Husband insists that you did know he was going away overnight and the fact it’s not on the calendar really isn’t the point!) (Ahem).
What it feels like to live in a perpetual state of liminality. Fully committed … But temporarily. Always wondering, somewhere in your mind, how, where and what you’ll be doing next and if any of the people you now spend your time with will be there when you go.
What it feels like to constantly tread the heavy waters of Mum-guilt, wife-guilt, existential-guilt, friendship-guilt, service-guilt and all other manners of real and imagined guilt, all laminated and shrink wrapped in penguin-killing ruddy plastic!
For… this too shall pass.
(OK. Maybe not the last one … )
But for the other future I see upon the horizon; the one in which I am no longer ridiculous but am marvelling at my three polite, well-turned-out children and their many adopted siblings; gracefully assisting my husband like a Stepford Wife; welcoming the masses, feeding the hungry, counselling the needy, healing the nation, hugging puppies, signing books and holding my Bake Off Trophy, (so what, it’s my dream, go get your own!)… I don’t want to forget the depths from whence I came.
So … I write.
And I thank you for reading.
The problem I’m having currently, however, is that I like to present you with something at least half polished when I do so. Something with a point to it. A well-processed gem of humour, heart, honesty and faith, with a little nugget of wisdom somewhere near the end.
The problem is I’m all out of wisdom right now and life is passing too quickly to process. Last week I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. This week… It’s picking up, I’m putting my best foot forward and I can feel somewhere, at the back of my mind, the temptation to block out the despair of barely 3 days ago; to gloss it all over with glitter paint and draw circles around an “answer” already. So, before I get to making sense … Here’s an unfiltered snapshot.
The last few weeks have been rough. Really rough. I mean the entire term has been exhausting, to be fair. I thought shipping one off to school would make life easier, but truth be told, it’s been a whole lot harder. The eldest is starved of attention, the middle starved of a playmate and the youngest… Well, she’s OK, as it goes, so long as we are never apart. I thought I’d be an awesome school Mum, being an ex teacher and all, but I just can’t keep up. I’m always late, struggle to find the quiet one-to-one time for homework and my word was I unprepared for the sass! One pick-up last term I left in plenty of time, only to be defeated by a double-yellow parent parker and a bin lorry. The heavens opened, the rain cover turned out to be a carrier bag in disguise, my giant pram-protecting umbrella blew inside out and it took so long to get the other two dressed for the storm that I sobbed in the street before doing the late parents’ Entrance of Shame. (Sassy Pants was not amused and told me so forthwith!)
At Church, I finally listened to the many reassurances that our kids were welcome to roam free and decided it was less embarrassing- and not to mention less stressful– than trying to reign them in anyway. This began tamely, with Toddler hanging around Husband and calling out things like “I’m hungry!” Whilst he prepared Communion… (there’s a lesson in there for all of us)… And ended with me, chasing them both out of the Altar on Christmas Day, during the service, with the baby- of course- attached to my breast. I mean, why would that NOT happen?!
During one particularly long Advent service, packed full of visitors, Husband and I noted that our Toddler was the only one who couldn’t contain himself. Looking round the room, however, we also noted that he was the only one not clutching an iPad or mobile phone. Which made us feel superior, of course, for at least thirty seconds before he launched himself off something else. One friendly guest commented on his energy and I joked with her that there was mission in his madness… I mean, if the Vicar’s kid isn’t perfectly behaved or put up and shut up in Church, then surely everyone else should feel more comfortable being there?! I repeated this ingenious theory to a new Christian parent, who rather encouragingly verified that this was exactly how he felt during his first few nervous visits to our family service, and that our own version of chaos had made them feel an awful lot more at home. Result! Unfortunately, however, I also repeated it to a non-Church-going relative, who pulled a face and hasn’t quite changed expression since… (Note to self: know your audience!)
Other entertaining items of note include the scruffiest example of hospitality I have offered to date; answering the door to a meeting I’d forgotten about, covered in icing sugar, whilst on the phone to the Vicar trying to locate instructions for the house alarm we’d never used, as Toddler- disappearing into Narnia in search of an elusive sweeping brush– had set it off 15 minutes beforehand and I still couldn’t switch it off!
In other news, Husband graciously gave me his ticket to a Church Leaders’ conference, in which I heard a very excellent speaker urge us all to be available, invest in people and spend more time saying “yes”. Which I did, of course, almost immediately and with every ounce of energy I had left. Husband, interestingly enough, heard the same speaker the following night tell those with small children that, so long as they put their trousers on the right way round in the morning, they were doing well and should lower their expectations. Typical!
There’s been pastoral meetings galore, Ebay triumphs and fails and congregational Dramas to boot. I broke my hard-drive full of photographs and videos, which, despite being a modern first world problem, greatly upsets my obsession with making sure all three children have their lives equally recorded and documented, causing no small amount of tears. (Yep… there’s YEARS worth of Mum guilt in that one!) At about the same time, I realised that all of the Christmas presents I’d smugly bought in September were now little boxes of stress-inducing death hazards, as Tiny was crawling and shovelling everything into her mouth and I’d somehow managed – there it is- to gloss over that stage in the sunlit meadows of my mind. So … back into the loft they went, and so forth went I, two weeks before Christmas, trying to replace everything as safely, thoughtfully and cheaply as possible. (Read: driving all over the county collecting second-hand toys from dubious addresses on Facebook Market Place).
In the midst of all of this nonsense, unfortunately, we had a hard-felt bereavement in the family. On top of the obvious emotional impact of losing a loved one, this also involved a couple of very late night drives to the other side of the country; the first of which was done alone, on a whim, with the baby. Perhaps it was this additional element that tipped the balance, I’m not sure; but the rest of the month brought severe anxiety, nightmares and emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. I saw my Doctor, got tested for everything we could think of and came back apparently healthy. Husband thought this should be fabulous news, but I’ll be honest… I didn’t. I was hoping for some very obvious, treatable results. A miscalculation in my thyroid meds and a prescription to sort it out. With all of the symptoms I felt sure I was experiencing, I couldn’t believe I could just be …tired.
(Of course, reading all of this back now, I suppose I can really!)
But there it is. November and December!
January is looking up and a few things are really helping. But two recent comments inspired me to write it as it is, or at least, has been.
Firstly, a friend struggling to adjust to life with a second child, suggested that I make it look easy.
It’s not. I promise you I feel as an incapable as the next Mum, most of the time. I also look enviously at other parents, who likewise go on to divulge their very real fears, failings and insecurities. We all think everyone else is doing it better, when the truth is we are all winging it, most of the time.
On the flip side, however, in the centre of my own downward spiral, someone else suggested that people are laughing at us, not with us. That I have no control, and it’s not funny.
Little did they know I was at such a critical point on the old laugh or cry scale.
Little did they know, true or not, that I’d let this comment trigger all of the things and promptly implode the lot.
Because people forget.
People don’t remember.
People don’t get it.
Or perhaps they never did.
And so… I write.
Because I get it right now.
I feel it right now.
And perhaps I even feel you right now.
Either way, at the very least… right now, you feel me.