Last week was nothing short of a disaster.
Monday kicked my tail, even for a Monday. My husband left town and left his car at the airport for me to pick up, but my keys were locked inside it and his keys were with him. (I told you I have key issues.) Crazy summer storms blew through the area and lightning fried all things electronic in my house, even those on surge protectors. Someone hit the front fender of my car while I was in the grocery store and didn’t bother to leave a note. The dishwasher broke. The vacuum bit the dust instead of sucking it. And worst of all, all family communication within my little six-pack of people was misconstrued and misunderstood and no one went to bed happy or affirmed, which for me is heartbreaking. I waved my white flag at the end of the evening and hoped the morning sun would bring a better day. Sometimes that’s all you can do.
You’d think that Monday contained enough stress for the entire week, but you’d be wrong.
Since I only slept for two hours, I already had some doubts about how this day was going to go. My son had nose surgery (see the stick war story from my previous post) and began his painful recovery. He’s a BEAST coming out of anesthesia, and according to what he told his nurse, he’s now afraid of his nose. He also told her no less than 26 times while she tried to get him to sip some apple juice he just wanted to go home, until his request turned into a steady chant of, “Home. Home. Home. Home. Juice. Home.” Trust me when I say they wanted us to leave as much as he did. Every bump on the road on the way home elicited painful moans. When the pharmacy tech said the wait time for his medication was an hour because “everyone is coming out of surgery this morning,” he sobbed, probably because he knew she was full of it.
Wednesday was a beaut. I was still running on fumes. I spent the wee hours of the morning lying awake on an air mattress inches from my son’s bed, trying to keep his medicated, restless self from touching, itching, and scratching his casted nose. Apparently he’s only afraid of it when he’s awake. Instead of relief, his pain relievers left him with a nasty headache and an abdominal migraine episode to boot. Talk about a double whammy. He’s suffered from these off and on since he was three. They cause cyclical vomiting, which, if you don’t know, occurs about every ten minutes for three or so hours. My poor little guy wretched and heaved until all he had left was bile. He was empty. I was empty. Our sleep reserve was likewise depleted. He finally rested, but I did not.
I headed for the Keurig and checked my calendar on the way. I had a midterm to take. It must’ve slipped my mind in my sleepless stupor. I’m pretty sure I accidentally brewed decaf coffee, because the three cups I drank didn’t phase me. In fact, I felt sedated. Nonetheless, I sat down to take my midterm feeling anything but prepared. The test was timed, so it was only fitting my son had the first of several major nosebleeds right in the middle of it. Time ran out while I was cleaning him up and calling the doctor. Suffice it to say that I did NOT get the grade I wanted, and there was blood in the carpet.
Thursday brought less sleep and more nosebleeds, which the doc said were perfectly normal. It sure didn’t seem normal that my son was going through gauze like he does underwear, but I deferred to the subject matter expert, stopped the bleeding, and tried to do my own job for a couple of hours. That ended abruptly when the blood faucet started to run again and my big oaf of a retriever threw up on the carpet. When I let him outside, he rolled himself in his own poop. (You’d think he could remember where he put it!) It was clear that work would wait and my house was starting to look like a crime scene.
Friday brought a natural disaster. This is no pun. There was a storm so brief yet so intense it seemed a tornado swept through our neighborhood, taking down trees and branches, damaging homes, and littering the streets and houses with leaf splatter. The front of my house looked like someone put a pallet of sod in a giant blender on high without the lid on. I’ve never seen weather like it, and made the kids run to the bathroom as I was sure our house was about to take a trip to Oz. Our small neighborhood made the evening news for the crazy weather and damage incurred. I needed to clean up the debris and take down the huge broken branch dangling over my kids’ play set, but my boy started bleeding again, so I told myself, “There’s always tomorrow, right?”
Saturday was LONG. I went to the garage freezer to get meat out for dinner and found all of the groceries at room temperature. Apparently, the power outage from the day before had reset the outlet for the garage fridge and it was the only thing that didn’t turn back on when power was restored. My son now felt well enough to move about the house and was extremely compelled to do so, but was instructed to stay “still” for two weeks by his doctor. Fat chance. “Still” is not something my little fella’ does well, so my reminders to be careful and stationary quickly sounded like a broken record, as did his requests. Everyone felt cooped up, because they were, and I was on day four of pajamas-only status.
Sunday morning I finally left the house for the first time in five days. It’s sad when a trip to the grocery store feels like a jailbreak. I stopped and picked up an espresso on the way, got everything on my list, and even used coupons that by some miracle I had time to cut before leaving. I was feeling a sense of accomplishment as I loaded the groceries onto the checkout belt when my daughter called with the worst possible news imaginable.
One of my little ones had lice.
If you’ve never dealt with lice, then you may be questioning, or even judging, my family’s cleanliness, scratching your head, and saying, “Ew!” I forgive you; it’s a common misconception. Lice love good hygiene and clean hair, and no one showers more than these kids.
If you’ve had the good fortune of hosting these dreadful houseguests, then you feel an immense amount of empathy while scratching your head and saying, “Man, that really sucks. I’m so sorry.” You also know the amount of tedious work and precious time and money it takes to recover.
I stopped at the pharmacy and spent a small fortune on anti-parasite shampoo, and as I drove home I officially began planning my pity party. It would be a blast – there would be balloons, bugs, bleeding, and bed linens to wash for days. Sadly, there would be no buddies, because of the bugs and all. I quickly shrugged off any sorrow I felt for myself. There was no time for that.
I was right. On top of all else, when I got home the air conditioner was leaking. It was 100 degrees outside, and the temperature inside was steadily creeping upward.
And then I cried. I had to walk away so the kids wouldn’t see, but I wept like a baby – a big 40-year-old baby. In true Laura form, I immediately started punishing myself for having an ounce of self-pity. What the heck is wrong with me? After a week like that, hadn’t I earned the right to a good cry? Why couldn’t I allow myself this one pathetic and private outburst?
The society of the “supermom” tells us we aren’t allowed to feel sorry for ourselves. “Get up, you miserable woman, because a hundred other moms are doing it better than you right now. And it could be worse.”
Supermom is another common misconception. She doesn’t exist.
Someone DOES always have it worse, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge our own struggles by letting a few tears fall or seeking a quiet place of our own to be “still.” It sure beats running away from home or succumbing to a catatonic state, and some days either of those options is appealing. It’s complete nonsense that we aren’t allowed to feel sad, frustrated, or unreasonably emotional about the daily nuances that wear us down. And let me be clear – they wear me down. It’s a sad day when apathy reigns because “your day wasn’t as horrible as mine.” This isn’t a competition I wish to win.
I didn’t wallow for long, mainly because there was no time, but also because it seemed like an insult to those who unknowingly helped me survive Hell Week 2015.
A friend drove to the airport and picked up the keys my husband left at the airline counter. Thank goodness for flight delays and willing friends. Another drove my daughter to and from work all week so I could let the patient rest, and even brought me my favorite coffee home with my child. My in-laws sent my son a “sunshine package” full of goodies to cheer him and keep him entertained. They called and texted repeatedly to make sure we were safe and offered advice for handling household issues. (I think they were worried I’d finally come eye-to-eye with the deep end.) Our friend who knows a thing or two about air conditioners walked me through some DIY solutions, and they worked. My teenager was an amazing help around the house and kept me smiling with her hilarious stories and delirious laughing. I finally caved and went to a laundromat for the first time in 18 years. Nineteen loads, 2 1/2 hours, and $50 later, it’s all done. And the previously mentioned coffee delivery friend stopped by to help me fold. When I returned with my clean laundry, there was a box on my front porch of Mary’s Mountain cookies, cookies so amazing they make you want to slap your mama. Remember my friend the Encourager? She knows EVERYTHING, but especially when to send sweet treats to lift tired spirits.
The bleeding stopped. The blood came out of the carpet. The poop came off of the dog. My instructor added six points to everyone’s test grades, so it wasn’t a total loss. Yes, the storm knocked down trees and perished a couple hundred dollars in groceries, but my house was standing and all of my people were safe. I bought more groceries. The lice are gone.
It’s well past the one-week mark and I’m just now putting my thoughts to paper. Who has time to write when there are doctor’s visits, insurance claims, and a laundry room floor to find? The past week and a half has been beyond challenging, but if we’re being honest, I’ve had worse. Hell Week 2004 was a doozy, but that’s a story for another time.
In my search to understand why when it rains it has to pour, I wondered with whose karma I’d been afflicted, because this surely couldn’t be mine. I also wondered why I hadn’t yet cracked. Like sitting-in-the-corner-sucking-my-thumb-and-rocking cracked. I revisited the list of all that went wrong and cut myself a break. Every disaster and added insult to injury was out of my control.
And that’s when it hit me. I can’t control everything. Most of the time, I can’t control anything. And I don’t have to.
That’s a tough pill to swallow for someone like me. I’ve been holding things together for 20 years, often alone, so if I don’t do it, who’s going to? The sad and shocking answer to that question is it could be anyone or it could be no one, and I have to be okay with either.
Yes, some days feel they will never end, and in those moments when it seems the world is falling down around you, it totally sucks. Being so consumed with putting out fires that you forget to pause and hug your short people sucks even more.
The bottom line is some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug. And some days you have bugs. Give yourself a break and allow yourself to feel. Some days you won’t thrive and you’ll be happy to survive. When you find yourself at your own pity party all alone, shed that tear, embrace that quiet moment, eat that cookie and regroup, knowing tomorrow will be better.
At least I hope so.