Photo: This photo of the boys in the early, blurry days of “mother of two,” is perfect for a lot of reasons. First, because I’m probably just as tired right now as I was when I took this photo. Second, because it so perfectly shows the power of a smiling face while you’re working hard. Nobody likes tummy time, but when big bro is bending over, smiling down at you, the crying seems to stop and the exploration begins. I wish I could bottle up the magic of this moment and sprinkle it on the boys when they are at each other’s throats.
This is the week when the walls crashed in on me. I just could not physically meet the challenges of my week.
I have been in pain for most of the last five days and I’ve been exhausted, too. I’ve been eating and not feeling satisfied, sleeping but not feeling energized… I walked through this week in a haze. I kept telling myself that I’d do the bare minimum to keep this house functioning, and I did. That, of course, has consequences that have been kicking my ass all day. Eventually, you wake back up with your usual energy, and there is a whole house full of problems waiting for you.
The thing about motherhood as there is no such thing as a vacation, a sick day or a mental-health day. Even when I told myself that I “wasn’t going to push it” and I was going to “take it easy,” there were still things that had to happen. I perform tasks that have to happen all day every day, even when I don’t think I’m up for it. And I usually have to do it with a little bit of grace or style… or at least a smile. These are the weeks when motherhood can be challenging.
But my Quiet Thoughts today aren’t really about the motherhood aspect of pushing through the fatigue. I’m thinking about the thing that kept getting me out of bed this week: “Keep pushing. Someone’s counting on you.” And how that applies to just about anyone and everyone.
When I first moved here to Massachusetts, I had a little part-time job to help me pay my rent during graduate school. I taught Saturday Academy at one of the charter schools in the city, and my boss was one of those men who always had something to say. When I told him that I hailed from the DC area, he told me this: “I hear that when it snows, the Federal government usually announces that they only need ‘essential employees’ to come in, everyone does because everyone in DC thinks that they are important!” He thought that was hilarious and a huge flaw on our part.
I chuckled politely, as an employee does when an employer insults her. One could say the same thing about Bostonions to be sure, but I held my tongue. I understood that he, as an outsider, could never understand. In DC, it isn’t that we feel like we’re important, it’s just that we understand that someone is counting on us. The guy selling the coffee and Post at the corner shop is connected to the girl serving the twenty ounce steak at the restaurant and they are both connected to the adviser who gets to brief the President on a daily basis. Everyone is performing an important task on behalf of someone else. We push through because someone is waiting on us, counting on us, so that they can serve someone else in some other way.
I remember learning this from my Father. When I was young, my Father used to go to the same few places for his daily essentials: coffee, lunch, smoke break. From time to time, I’d go to work with him (he worked for an organization off of McPhearson Square). Everyone from his boss to the parking attendant was always “sir” or “ma’am.” There was always a sincere “please” or “thank you,” an “I appreciate that” always came easily. “I can’t do my job well if I have to think about the things that these people do,” he told me once over lunch. “If I’m worried about my car, I can’t do my job. If I’m thinking about coffee, I can’t do my job. If I’m thinking about my dry cleaning, I can’t do my job. I thank people because they are essential to my day.”
It was a lesson that is easy to grasp, but sometimes difficult to practice. I still managed to take it with me to undergrad, where I learned the names of the maintenance staff of the dorms that I worked for as a Resident Assistant and made sure to show my appreciation by giving them my time and my ear. You can actually learn a lot of campus gossip by listening to the support staff. 🙂 There was an older man, Mr. Richmond, who had been with the school forever, who worked tirelessly for us every day. He had terrible back problems, walked with a limp, but never missed a single day as far as I knew. We student staff honored him with an award for his service during my senior year of school, and I’ll never forget the suit, fedora and proud smile he wore for the occasion. I remember asking him if he was going to retire, to save his back, you know? “I’ve got two beautiful daughters,” he told me. “They’re almost done with school, almost out, just like you. I made them a promise that I’d pay for it. I’ll rest the day that I do.”
You have to keep pushing, because someone is counting on you. You have to keep working, because your efforts are appreciated. Your “small” deeds are goliath to someone. Your toil creates opportunity for somebody. In the moments when you don’t feel like it, keep pushing. Even if you don’t have two toddlers with stinky diapers compelling you to get up and move, there is someone out there counting on you.
And so I will get myself up from this computer, make the bed with fresh sheets, turn over the laundry, clean up the playroom, tidy up the living room and then prepare dinner. I’ll do so even though I’m in pain, and even though I’m tired in a way that I haven’t been in a long time. I’ll do these tasks even though I haven’t written a single word of fiction all week and I’ve barely stitched a row of my project. I’ll do them because two little bears (and a husband) are counting on me. I’ll do them because I understand that I’m essential to someone.
It is Friday, and you made it. Maybe you crawled to it like I did, or maybe you flew after an awesome week. Either way, you are here. If you celebrate, I wish you a beautiful Easter. If you don’t celebrate, I wish you a beautiful and happy spring weekend. I wish you ham beautifully glazed, a standing rib roast tender and savory, or a leg of lamb butterflied and stuffed with cheeses and herbs, or stuffed peppers and mushrooms filled cheeses and veggies. I wish you the sight of children in their spring best, faces bright with joy and sugar highs, cheeks rosy from sunshine and play. I wish you an egg hunt on a lush green yard, jelly beans in gourmet flavors, and amazing Cadbury chocolate (the beeesssttt chocolate). I wish you a pat on the back, a strong hug, a kiss on the cheek and maybe a pinch there, too. I wish you a moment to take a deep breath and know that your work isn’t only your own. Most of all, I wish you joy.
Am I going to church on Sunday? Find out on Monday! Until then, take care.