Sometimes I find myself wondering around in a bitter funk. It's characterized by the question, "Why bother?" and usually is sparked by how quickly things are undone, how much energy it takes to push myself and my family toward routines and habits that are healthy and productive, and how tired I am. I feel like just quitting.
I start to wonder, "What's wrong here? Why am I feeling this way?" Often the past week or two, on the heels of that question is the realization that I haven't taken the time for gratitude. I haven't been writing the gifts that each day brings as they come. And the result is that I start to whine and complain a lot, and resent the people around me.
Last night was one such night. I have been trying pretty hard this week to get us back in a routine now that the holiday is over. I have been pushing recalcitrant children through the mornings and lessons. I have been pushing myself to sleep at a decent hour and to get my work done during the days instead of at night. I haven't been writing in my journal each night.
Thursday after I headed to bed feeling pretty good about the state of the house and what I had accomplished, I realized it was after midnight. And then Little woke up several times in the night and woke early the next day. The Genius Husband was still home because he needed to repair his car. His brother and friend were over to help him. By 8 am my tiny living room was littered with the residue of three guys. And then my BIL stayed all morning, sprawled on my floor using his laptop. And then all of my in-laws dropped by just as I was starting the Boy on his last lesson of the morning. Then my BIL left, but left all his stuff laying around here, it's still here actually. I managed to get the Boy through the rest of school that afternoon, cook dinner, get them to bed in time to read, pushing us all to catch up on the day.
I emerged from the bedroom to learn that my BIL was back and spending the night, which I normally don't mind. But then the GH tripped over a bucket of Lego and asked, aren't you supposed to take this away if they don't pick it up before bed? He was probably just thinking about his brother having a tidy place to sleep but it set something off inside of me. This hot angry weight started to settle in my chest.
I realized that I hadn't made time for tidying, that there were toys every where, that I should take them away to be consistent. But I hadn't even given them the time to clean up. Suddenly it was just too much. I threw a private little pity party in my head while I picked up toys and chose to confiscate those I clearly remembered telling them to put away, but not the rest. I was angry at not being asked if I minded the guests, even though I most often don't. I was angry at myself for forgetting clean up. I was angry at my husband for being critical, however mildly. I was done with trying. I heard in his question an indictment, a rehearsal of all my failures and felt defensive and ashamed all at once. I went on this way for two hours or so as I ran through my evening routine and got ready for bed.
You can imagine the state I was in by the time I laid down. Little woke just as I was creeping under the covers. As I lay there and nursed her back to sleep, more out of habit than anything else, I flung my arm in the GHs' direction. Our arms met in the middle. He, wakened by the crying, was reaching out with a soothing gesture of his own.
And then he sleepily continued to fondle my arm as I lay there waiting for Little to go back to sleep. Hot invisible tears poured out of me as I once again felt sorry for myself, felt burdened by his affection, by what I knew he was hoping would come. "If it's not one thing it's another. I get to bed on time only to have my husband keep me awake. I can't do it. Why am I trying? There is no point."
I lay there rehearsing my self absorbed lament, while one of the GH's catch phrases played loud in my head. "Your system is perfectly designed to get the result you are getting." As he continued to tickled my inner arms with his fingertips, waiting as well for Little to fall asleep, I continued to battle in my mind. I ran over all the possibilities. How could I change things? What was I doing wrong? Why was I failing at everything I was trying? Shame and doubt flooded over me. I remembered the time this week when I yelled at everyone, all tired and cranky. The tears kept coming as I went over my lists, all the things I wanted to do but hadn't, all the things that seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. POOR ME.
The litany of things eventually ran itself down and slowly, splashing into my thoughts like little clear drops of water came memories of good things. I wasn't consciously trying to change my train of thought, I was in full on self indulgent mode. But they came nonetheless, my children, the children in Thailand, my husband loves me...
Little by little I broke. Tears came hotter, the little ball of anger in my chest began to loosen and ease, and I remembered the phrase that came to mind the moment I was able to say yes to the GH with my whole heart. I had been so afraid of tying my life to another. I was afraid of being trapped, of missing out. I had operated until that point by keeping my options as open as possible and avoiding making too many decisions. "In the end, all that will matter is how well you loved God, and loved others." And with that thought I was finally free to say yes with my whole heart to this man who wanted to join his life to mine.
There it was again? What did I really want to be good at? Keeping house, enforcing rules, creating order, routines, or loving people, when it's a choice between the two?
So I let the anger and frustration go, soak it's way with the hot tears into the pillow, even though I didn't have anything figured out yet. Knowing that it was better to have these people in my life and the frustration that they bring than to not have them at all. And finally I was able to turn from the now sleeping toddler toward the wide awake husband and, with my whole heart, once again say yes to him.
That was my lesson in gratitude this week.
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