Take a Deep Breath? I Don’t Want To, and You Can’t Make Me.

In case the title of this post wasn’t a giveaway, I’m feeling contrary tonight.

After the upheaval of the past five months (is it just me or does the word “upheaval” make you think of upchucking, too?), what with the layoff and the move and the living in hotels for almost two months and the buying a house when we’d planned to rent and the getting lost every time I drive somewhere, I really, really, really want things to settle back into a routine.

Left to their own devices, however, things in my family tend more towards chaos than towards order. It’s the Third Law of Family Dynamics, I think (the first two being, “If the kids are quiet, they’re probably giving the cat a haircut,” and “If you don’t admit you see the poop on the floor, you aren’t responsible for cleaning it up”).

The cat’s haircut.

Instead of calmly noticing patterns that already exist in our lives and gently easing my family more in that direction over time, I get frantic and come up with a routine and then try to force everyone around me to conform to it.

Oddly enough, my family aren’t often on board with that plan, no matter how much they, too, need routine.

When they won’t docilely fall into step, I end up losing my cool and yelling at everyone. Then I descend into self-loathing because why else would I yell at my family than because I’m a horrible mother and, let’s face it, an awful person in general?

All evening I’ve been trying to convince myself to take a deep breath and put things into perspective. In my mind, I can admit that there are other perfectly logical reasons why I’d be yelling at my family that don’t involve me being irredeemably flawed.

I’m overextended, I’m frustrated, I’m overwhelmed.

I’m staying up too late, not exercising like I ought to, eating erratically.

I’m not getting alone time.

I’m trying to fast-track settling in and building friendships, and on top of that I’m homeschooling my kids and planning my own perhaps overly ambitious self-education.

And I’m rejecting reality and trying to muscle the world and the people around me into the patterns that I’ve deemed ideal.

I know all of these things, but I’m not sure I’m done stamping my feet and whining that it’s not fair. Not just yet.

Tomorrow maybe I’ll breathe deeply and think about how much I do have and how the routines will come in time and that I’m not a horrible person because my kids go to bed past 10pm every night and refuse to put their clothes in the hamper and put wet, dirty floor towels on my bed. I’ll ask myself, “What is ‘fair’ anyway?” like a mother’s koan, and conclude that life is what we make of it.

But today, I got my Massachusetts license in the mail and that just makes it all the more real that we’re here. And we’re not going back to Utah. And I’m a little lost and a lot sad because of that, and angry because I can’t change it and confused because I’m not even sure I should want to change it.

I can’t muscle myself into not feeling those things, no matter how hard I try. So I’ll just feel them and hope that they’ll eventually let up a little bit.

And I can’t muscle my kids into routines. So I’ll just have to love them and hope that’s enough.

7 comments

  1. timbra · August 20, 2011

    i got your hand written note when i returned from solitude, it made me miss you. . . . thinking of you (and kind of hoping my sister’s guy gets moved to Mass in May so I have an excuse to visit, but don’t hang your hat on it 🙂

    Like

  2. Angie~Lah · August 19, 2011

    I’ve been having a lot of “almost” nervous breakdowns lately thanks to life becoming super hectic, so I can empathize with what you’re going through. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breathe and say, “this, too, will pass.”

    Like

    • CJ · August 19, 2011

      Yes, this morning I’m much more amenable to the idea of breathing deeply than I was last night. Maybe I can get it to last the day. Or at least the morning.

      Like

  3. B. Sweeney · August 19, 2011

    While reading this, I was thinking about how we experience time. It is different up here in rural AK than when we lived in SLC or the rest of “america.” Here the basic unit of time is the day- as in, if it happens sometime that day, it’s on time. Meetings that are set for 1 pm might start at 3, but that’s OK. Don’t know that you can adopt that, but I thought our different experiences of time were interesting to think about in relation to schedules and routines.

    And you are not a horrible person. I wish we still got to spend time together. You hold yourself to a very high standard.

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    • CJ · August 19, 2011

      It’s quite possible I’m trying to schedule too much at too many concrete times. Even being ten minutes off for a hike I scheduled last week messed up our meet-up pretty significantly, though, so I doubt the rural AK way of reckoning time would translate well in Massachusetts, but it’s always interesting to think about the flexible nature of time and how we experience it. (The book Einstein’s Dreams, which deals with this idea, just came to mind. I might want to dig that one out again.)

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  4. Heidi L · August 19, 2011

    Cyber hug to you. We’ve all been there even though we haven’t been where you are exactly. It sucks. It passes but in the mean time it sucks.
    Xoxo

    Like

    • CJ · August 19, 2011

      Thanks, Heidi, for indulging my whine-fest and for the virtual hug.

      Like

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