Sunday, March 18, 2012


On Friday, I got ready to jog. I made and drank my coffee in the late afternoon. I got my running sneakers and socks, dressed in layers, filled my water bottle. I babysit until 5:00 and then I leave, just as my husband arrives home, walking steep up the hills of my neighborhood to the reservoir. I run around it .8 miles plus .8 miles, 3 or 4 or 5 times in a row, until it's time to walk back home and have dinner with my family.

My husband was late coming home. We always eat pizza on Fridays, usually homemade, but we'd decided to grill burgers instead because the weather was supposed to be nice. So we didn't pull the frozen dough down to thaw. We didn't have burgers either, but he was going to stop and pick them up on the way home. That's not why he was late, though.

He had to drop artwork for a show in a small town, miles and miles north of where he works. We're south. I had 4 kids under 4, and we were texting sporadically to talk about all of this, but it was tough to keep up, what with me watching the little ones and him driving, and unloading photography, drawing, painting and sculpture from the back of his car.

The last boy's mom came to get him right at 5:00. I had just sent my husband a text after an hour or so without hearing anything, realizing all of a sudden how late it was. That we had no dinner. That I was ready to run, but the rest of the regular plan wasn't in place. As the mom walked toward the gate to go home, my daughter began to follow. Her son came running up behind, an open, happy look on his face. His arms shot out in front of him and he shoved my baby girl through the air. Her face hit a metal bicycle as she landed; the skin on her cheek broke open along with her wail. The mom came running, and picked her up; I raced across the yard; we both began to check and comfort her. My son began to yell at his friend: NO! No, no, no! You do NOT hurt my sister! You are in BIG trouble!

I don't think he meant to hurt her. His face was just so open and happy as it happened. I don't think he knew what he was doing. He does push sometimes, usually if someone is taking a toy from his hands. But this was so different; she wasn't even in his way. I took her into my arms, and tried to calm my angry boy: brother defending his sister. The little boy's mom gathered him sternly and took him to the car. I could tell she felt just terrible.

As I walked to the house with my sobbing daughter on my hip, and my angry son ranting beside me all the way, so wounded was his heart to see his sister hurt, I realized they both needed dinner. Like, now. I checked my phone. My husband had responded and was still an hour away. I called in the pizza order before I told him not to bother with the burgers. My son was so disappointed we weren't grilling burgers that I ordered chicken fingers and french fries too, just to placate him. My husband wouldn't even make it home on time to pick up the food, so I'd have to do that with both of the kids.

By the time we got dinner it was an hour later than usual. I was too hungry to jog first, and too full to do it afterward. And then there was the bedtime routine, and it was too late. There's such a small window in there, where I can have that hour to myself. Anything out of the ordinary and it disappears *poof* into thin air. Like magic, except in reverse. Black magic, maybe.

I didn't get away at all on Saturday either. We had the Farmer's Market in the morning; I kept both kids and let my husband get that done on his own, to save time. Because this weekend was the St. Patrick's Day parade downtown, and we had to hurry through the morning to make it on time. We took the kids for a couple hours, but had to rush home so the little one could nap. Then we had the rest of the grocery shopping to get through, and of course there's always dinner, and bathtime, and bedtime again. By the end of the day on Saturday I was beginning to feel like a dishrag: wrung out, dirty, hung to dry too often, growing brittle and crusty. I drank a few beers and fell asleep on the couch just as Saturday Night Live was beginning.

I got up with the kids early this morning, and had 3 cups of coffee, determined to get out for a jog after my husband woke up. The weather was warm, and we filled the sandbox earlier this week. He had food for the grill and by all rights it should have worked out perfectly. But there was something growing inside me by the time he got up and I got my daughter down to nap: something ugly and spiteful, something determined to fail.

That's not quite right either; I'm not giving myself any mercy. It's just that I felt underwater. Like Friday I had my running sneakers on, and instead I fell into a creek, or a pond, or maybe it was even a lake or an ocean; I don't know. It's hard to look around for the perimeter or gauge the horizon when you're just trying not to drown. So I treaded water instead, with my sneakers on, and all my layers, holding my water bottle heavy in my hand. And then the kids jumped in and I had to catch them, and I kept on treading, but I was just getting so tired. My husband jumped in too, and he tried to help, but what I needed to do was swim away, swim far enough away that it was just me, surrounded by the cool, dark water, alone under the moonlight, sneakers and layers off, naked in the night. And I couldn't. I never got the chance to swim. I just kept treading, and treading, passing the kids back and forth and worrying about life jackets. None of us seemed to have them. By this morning I'd given up treading and was spending most of my time underwater, just holding up the feet of my children, darting up for quick breaths when I could, but it was never enough. Never enough air, and I couldn't get a deep enough breath to hold me when I had to keep darting down to grab their ankles and keep them up.

So when she went down for her nap, I didn't want to jog. I didn't want to swim. Coffee was swimming perfunctorily through my veins, 3 cups, but it just wasn't enough. I wanted to sink. Sink way down to the bottom, and just sleep. I didn't want to die; I'm not remotely suicidal; I'm just. so. tired. And I knew I had limited hours before she woke up, and I simply couldn't muster the energy to use it to jog 2.4 or 3.2 or 4 miles around and around the reservoir. I didn't have a reservoir of energy upon which to draw. I just couldn't. I just. Couldn't.

I stayed on the couch, and I cried a little bit. My husband and son tried to soothe me, but I didn't particularly want to be soothed. I saw some neighbors pulling away in a jeep with no roof, and I was filled with envy, and a desire to be irresponsible. Instead I just sat, and talked with my husband about how to best manage our (stupid, stupid) schedules. At one point, he said: it sounds like there's nothing we can do to fix this today. And I burst into tears anew and said: Yes! That's it EXACTLY and what a relief to hear it spoken aloud! He thought that was a disappointment, but I thought it was perfectly true, and high time we just said it, already.

After our daughter woke up, we all went to Target and Marshall's and bought shoes that people needed, a battery charger to replace the one that just broke, and new rugs for the kitchen floor. The kitchen is our entryway and the winter rugs have been through the wash one time too many and the backing is shredded and dissolving on the floor. We came home and I arranged and rearranged the new rugs on the floor.

I like them an awful lot, but no matter what I tried, they never did fit quite right into the space. We just did the best we can. Which is really all we can ever do.


  1. Ouch. Is your daughter all right now?

    But oh, that image of you sinking under the water, holding your children up by the feet, and occasionally darting up for snatches of air -- oh, that was a powerful one. I've never read a more perfect description of how it feels to be completely depended upon and completely overwhelmed.

    This whole post resonated with me, really. My schedule isn't as harried as yours and I don't have as many people who need things from me, but sometimes I still feel like I'm striking a precarious emotional balance. Like: if a set of very specific expectations are met then I'm completely fine, but if there's a crack somewhere it can send me sinking. And then, it's so hard to find that balance again.

    I hope things are picking up for you though. I'm thinking about you --

    1. She seems to be fine--just a little shiner on the side of her head! You're exactly right about how if everything follows the plan or expectations, it's smooth sailing. But one tiny mess-up leads to an utter mess! There's just so little room for error! I am still pretty exhausted--took the kids an hour and a half away today to a Museum of Play, which was really, really fun. And really, really tiring. But I think I'll be going to bed very early tonight. And my cleaning lady is back from her vacation and coming tomorrow, which is always a nice treat. I'll be fine! :)

  2. Oh, hon, I know this feeling. It's terrible and the only good thing to say about it is it's always finite. I hope you have a wonderful Monday tomorrow to reset yourself and start the week fresh.

    1. Thank you! Today was hectic, but lots of fun. I want to sleep for a week or so, but I'll take one good night!