The feeling doesn’t hit all at once. It is a slow process that starts with a dull sense of dread, like the knock of an unwanted guest at your door. You try to hide behind the curtains, remaining silent and avoiding any sudden movements, in the hopes that your unwelcomed visitor will vacate the premises and leave you to your normal routine. But dread is a persistent caller. It’s silhouette casts a long shadow, and it intends to stay on your porch, rocking in your chair until you unlock the screen door and let it inside. Dread can take many forms. It can make you call in sick and impair your motivation. It can cause your feet to drag and your excuses to formulate. It can make you respond with a sigh to requests of “Just one more book!” and “Look at me Mommy!” It isn’t acute by nature, but it’s there nonetheless…just below the skin, poisoning your productivity and ravaging your resolve.
Once inside, dread morphs into frustration and defies rational thought. Mundane tasks become mountainous. Sighs are accompanied by shouts. They shouldn’t be. I know this. You know this. A request for another glass of water is just that. Until it isn’t. Until the trek downstairs to fetch yet another receptacle of liquid is just the latest in an endless line of demands that started at 6:00 a.m. with the correct color of cereal bowl, continued with the urgent email wanting an immediate reply, moved on to the homework that required a signature, and kept on going to the search for a lost stuffed kitten. Sometimes that second glass of water takes on a whole new meaning and its retrieval might as well be a hike across the Gobi Desert. Yes, sometimes logic loses its god-forsaken mind.
After the frustration dies down (usually after the natives have gone to bed), regret soon takes its place. The irrational responses and missed opportunities play on a loop in your head as you wipe a tear or two away and pick up the now empty sippy cups. The regret is a familiar feeling. It is an old friend, the quiet kind who sits in the corner, crocheting a scarf and throwing out age-old adages like “It’s not a race.” or “If you don’t slow down, you’re going to miss it.”
Its days like these that I ponder the purpose of trying to do it all. I ask myself questions like, “Why did you take on that project when you know you don’t have the time?” or “Why did you agree to another activity when it means another night of drive-thru dinners in the car?” I feel the heavy load of a full-time career, a full-time parenting gig, and not enough hours in the day. I look at the dishes piled in the sink and the three-day-old layer of crumbs scattered on the floor, remnants of rushed meals and skipped chores, and think—“Does it really have to be this hard?” I know the answer. But my problem lies in the implementation of the truth.
Despite the mantra of my millennial upbringing to do more and be more, I crave a simpler time with a slower pace. I want to teleport back to the 50s, throw on an apron, and bake some damn cookies. I wish there were more days spent wearing hiking boots and fewer days wearing high heels. There are days when I curse my profession and question my choices. When I pick up my sleeping baby from a warm bed and transfer her to a cold car seat to drop her off with a caregiver before the sun comes up, I wonder if the benefits outweigh the costs. When I race back and forth between meetings and appointments, practices and commitments, I can physically feel the futility of the effort and the exhaustion of the rat race. It is at the end of those days, when my hair is frazzled and my to-do list is still too long, that I want to scream out – Enough, enough already!
And then I hit the proverbial wall. The wall that is there to knock you down and make you see stars and force you to take a time-out for your sanity. The wall that whispers, “Just stay down there and rest for a little while…watch a little Netflix and snuggle up with your babies. The world will keep turning and the sun will come up tomorrow, “progress” can wait another day.
There has to be a better way. Life cannot be a series of races and crashes. How did we get to the point where our schedules are so full that we can’t fit in a day in our pajamas or regular dinners around the table? I haven’t watched a movie that isn’t made by Pixar in close to five years. I haven’t slept past 9:00 in seven years. (Okay, that’s because I have three kids, so I brought that one on myself.) I have become so used to the fast pace of modern life that I’ve forgotten how to get off the treadmill and just stand still.
So, I’m making a vow, to my family and myself, to slow it down. I promise to say no to outside distractions and yes to quality interactions. When I see the wall approaching, I’m not going to keep my foot on the pedal and encourage a head-on collision. I’m going to act rationally—let off the gas and apply pressure to the brake. I’m not going to scream out in angst or take out my frustrations on those I love. Because, despite the difficulty of the job, I am an adult. Because the bills will still be there after my tantrum. Because there are three little faces upstairs that are thirsty for water and desperate for another story.
(Photo Credit: Caryn DeFreez Photography)