All day I’ve been waiting for that moment of sentimentality to hit me. It’s Mother’s Day. I am a mom. I’m supposed to be reflecting on how much better my life is, how much better I am, because of them, right? And I do feel and acknowledge those truths. I do. But today it has been pretty much normal. No big soft, squishy heart on my sleeve here today. In fact, I feel quite detached from the Mother’s Dayness of today. In fact, if I’m being totally honest, I’ve been feeling pretty detached from a lot of people and things lately.
For the past few months, I have been completely wiped. Spent. Emotionally and mentally. There are people around me who know this. It’s not a secret. And while I have rearranged some priorities to create space and time for myself, I am not completely out of the woods yet. I am coping, but I am not better. Yet. Today is a good example of what I mean. Today I only felt a tiny twinge guilty for not doing *something* related to thesis or work. That is an improvement from where I was two months ago. We went for a long walk this morning and the afternoon was spent just hanging around the house doing normal around-the-house stuff. But all day I have not particularly reached out to my children. Except for a brief cuddle on the patio while bird watching with Little Miss G, I have not made much of the fact that it is Mother’s Day. Emotionally it’s just been–steady. And that is better, oh so much better than where I was a few weeks ago.
It’s just been a normal day of being mom, being proud at how big they’re getting, how beautiful they are… Of disciplining when they need disciplining and hugging when they need hugging. Nothing out of the ordinary. On all other Mother’s Days I have written in a journal for both of them for when they’re older. Because I like to mark the days. I like to do little special things. I like to be sentimental and lose myself in memories and reflection… swim in the deep waters of emotion and just let the words pour forth. No entries will go in there today. And that is how I know I am not exactly where I should be. That is how I know I’m still coping.
This has been a really tough six months. Three years of being wife, mom, student, teacher (and unfortunately not in that order) has taken its toll. I knew it was happening last spring, but suddenly found my reserves completely empty after what was otherwise, a pretty relaxed summer. Suddenly, in January, I had nothing but stress and a complete inability to focus. February was worse. Much much worse. The last time I felt that emotionally overwrought was in the early weeks after Little Miss G was born.
So much of what I do, I used to say, is for them–my family. I believed that. But my ambitions have cost them a lot over these last few years. I’ve been forced to reconsider my motivations. If it were truly for them, I would have dropped at least one thing by now, because clearly they are not gaining anything from it… it’s quite the opposite actually. They don’t want an accomplished mommy. They want Mommy. And my husband. Dear Lord, my husband. What an incredible human being. What I do have to give emotionally, I give to him. It isn’t much, but he is so very good to me. He has never let me feel unloved or uncherished for a single moment. And I have questioned, multiple times, whether or not I am worth his effort, and worthy of their love. Dangerous thoughts, I know. Nearly every day, I count the cost of my choices–not what it costs me, but what it costs them. The tally is paralyzing. In February it froze me dead in my tracks. It is better now, but some days are still pretty rough.
At the core of it all there is this: I do not do what I do because I care about accomplishment or accolades as much as I fear failure. And so I have always pursued The Next Thing to ward off failure. I’ve been asking myself for years when is It Going To Be Enough? Just who, exactly, am I trying to impress? What, exactly, am I afraid of? These questions have dogged me since I was 12 years old–maybe earlier. Or maybe it’s the fear of looking like a failure.
If you were to just call me out the blue, I would tell you that, yes, I’ve been stressed, but that it’s betting better. It’s been difficult, but it’s getting easier. That I’m making progress, and that I should be done soon. Things are moving along. I am doing okay. All of those things are sometimes true. But in truth, I usually have no idea what kind of progress I’m going to be able to make in the days ahead because there are times I. just. can’t. think. And honestly, there are times when my own emotional state is a bit of a mystery even to me. Like today. I’ve had to let myself just do what I can do, or sometimes do what I choose to do, and just click the rest off and not dwell on it otherwise I end up very emotionally and mentally raw.
It feels very odd to admit all of this, but this is a truth I need to tell. This is certainly not a warm and fuzzy Mother’s Day post, but I knew it wouldn’t be when I started. Just sitting down here and putting all of this in black-and-white is progress, because I’ve been keeping this for some time now. And quite honestly, I don’t know why I’m saying it now. Maybe I just feel like I need to say something. Even if that something is just a long-winded reason why I haven’t been saying anything.
But the end result has to be this: For a very, very long time I have been scared to death of not doing enough… not being good enough… of not being enough… of not meeting people’s expectations… of disappointing somebody… of disappointing lots of people. That has to stop. That has to stop, now. What does that mean for my future? I don’t know. Maybe big things. Maybe nothing discernable to anybody who doesn’t live within this house or inside this body.
So, you know, friends, if all this seems weird or out of left field… hey, I’m trying… I’m trying to shrug off a few layers… a few unneccessary expectations–real or perceived–at a time. It’s been a long time coming and it’s going to take time. But I’ll admit that at this very moment, I am having to resist the temptation to give a pre-emptive apology to anybody who might be offended or disappointed while I am in that process.
And now, moment of truth: Do send it out there for you to read, or do I keep it a little longer?