Laundry, permission slips, school lunches, art supplies, driving lessons. Another SAT registration. More credit debt.
I’m dancing as fast as I can
More writing, more writing, more writing. Another dose to fight anxiety, then another to quell worry; worry bubbling up out of the words that are never enough, sharp enough, jutting enough, strong enough to help me up and out of the well. Or into clarity, beyond the jumble of days and nights speeding by, one nearly indistinguishable from the next, just another flavor of older days: all-nighters for school papers, corporate projects, colicky infants, newspaper deadlines. But this is somehow more, harder, heavier, sluggish, this continuum of daily grind. This daily, daily, daily crazy. How many thousands of days? Four thousand? Eight thousand? Why?
Promises to keep
I promised myself. This. To write daily. Here. In this unknown place that I entered innocently, now so familiar, never knowing that a “you who read” would materialize, ignorant of your power, your individuality, your friendship, your wisdom.
I promised myself that I would squeeze words out of my morning musing laid to the paper page for many years, words cobbled together, compressed hastily into sense and nonsense, scratching out questions, my own lessons, the sweetness of a good day, the bitterness of a bad one. And the shambles of sleepless nights, too often, too many, in my over-caffeinated, hurried, never-enough-of-everything state – words not crisp enough (actions not definitive enough), sentences not potent enough (strategies not effective enough), dropping the ball, scurrying to pick it up, and then another and another and juggling them all in the air laughing to entertain the troops, my troops, as I now stand on one foot for the twinkle in their eyes, now hopping, now grinning wider, hopping faster, and faster, and faster.
Never fast enough.
But I’m writing as fast as I can!
I look up, because I am asked to look up. I look up because I sense, somehow, that the little hand on the kitchen clock has spun forward six hours, again, as I dropped into a parallel universe while writing.
And the pounding in my chest? The jittery legs?
Thoughts scramble and bounce: E to M to C and back again to M and C – whatever happened to the line segment, A to B? Whatever happened to time?
The laundry is spinning, my head is spinning, the hours are falling away, I forget to eat, my gut is in knots, my son needs blending stumps, charcoal, another tube of titanium white, more money, that damn driving lesson… how did I manage two children alone all these years?
My mental task list is barely half attacked. So I write more, faster, pounding out whatever shoots onto the keyboard, knowing it will need a tidy nip-tuck into cohesive form when the brain eases off the accelerator, relinquishing the wheel to more mechanical editing skills. Cerebellum, fingers, lap. Coffee.
I flash for an instant to babies, house, jobs, schools, carpool, homework help, walking the dog, deadlines, the spin cycle, another load, always another load and my own voice screaming for just a little time to step off the merry-go-round, and rest. Outside my own limbs. Outside my own head.
I catch on the cogs of my life now, still, my crazy Catch-22s, my crazy everything, beyond my control, self-imposed, ruefully, ruthlessly, driven by survival. Only it’s 10 years later and I know I’m writing as fast as I can but now deadlines become habit and there’s another, and another, and it feels like I’m headed straight into the red zone.
And then, epiphany. Dead. Line. And I stop.
Parenting is a rush. A spectacular rush. A crazy rush. A wild ride. Single parenting is chaotic, calamitous, a precarious series of compromises and conundrums – more complex than any of us can imagine before the dire deed is done. Perhaps it’s better we never knew.
But here’s the drill. Occasionally, we look up. The clock spurs us on, our children spur us on, we spiral faster into the blur, one with the blur, years dropping away slowly, quickly, alarmingly, numbingly. Then something happens.
Slow down, you move too fast
Something causes us to stop. To look inward. To step back, and then look inward. We see, we feel, we are aware of emotion and physical sensation. Acceptance and terror. Gratitude and compassion. Occasionally, in the shadow of another’s heartbreak we gain perspective. A phone call, an email from a friend, a blog post. A life of courage and humor that is on the line. Life and death. Whatever we experience, however brutally it thrashes us about, most of the time it isn’t life and death. In our blur, our flurry, our screaming at the top of our lungs to stay afloat, we forget that immeasurably important detail.
Because life is precious, family is precious, and terrible things occur in wonderful lives, pointlessly. And we are struck dumb. The screen goes blank. Words stop. We stop.
Yesterday, well-known mommy blogger Anissa Mayhew, 35 years old, mother of three, suffered a second stroke. As if life with a child fighting cancer is not enough for one family. She is – from the latest I could find online – still fighting, but I haven’t found more updates yet this morning.
When I fell upon this bit of news last evening, everything ceased: my mental churning at 300mph, the sixth cup of coffee, the fingers flying on the keyboard. I stopped, and listened to my son work through Chopin on the piano, meticulously, repetitively, patiently. Reaching for just the right phrasing, just the right tone from each key. I was, briefly, “present.”
An event whispered: slow down, you move too fast. This isn’t life or death. And there are children still at play. Navigate carefully. Balance momentum, and the moment.
Stop, look, listen, slow…
Years do pass faster now. I feel them passing, even as I write as fast as I can, run as fast as I can, sleep as fast as I can in a great game of catch-up in order to survive. As fast as I can? Shouldn’t I want to survive – and thrive – as slowly as I can?
- Are you racing and chasing through your days and nights?
- When does the everyday circus become life and death, or feel that way?
- How do you quiet yourself when your nature is anything but tranquil?
This morning, there is perspective. The faces of my sons. Their reliance on me. The need for me to be here. I slow my fingers, my breathing. We will be late today. It is alright that we will be late.
I am thinking all good thoughts for Anissa and her family. Please, whatever you believe, think and feel your good thoughts for her, for her children, for her husband. Slow your schedules. Troubles aren’t life and death. Hardship is not tragedy.