Self Preservation

On days like today I can scarcely take care of myself. The baby slept for an hour while I carried out my son’s lunch order and warmed up my leftovers… her sobs midway through my meal prompted the heaviest of sighs. I’m called to be so alert, so on top of it all- but I swear I’m wasting away.

I no longer had the energy to separate the kids and hop between hallways to manage their needs. My husband came home to me in the chair, and the children somewhere amongst a foot-high pile of videos after Sis learned herself how to open the closet door. One is a terrible age in which to beg compromise or mercy. I couldn’t even make eye contact with my husband as I prepared to leave- layering mascara and baggy clothing over my sorry attitude in attempt to make pretend I was capable (or worthy) of any further human interaction. My hair in a french braid, tight enough to conceal that I hadn’t shampooed in days, I brushed past him on the way out. I spilled the water I take for breastfeeding and grunted a half-assed, “Goodbye,” to him only.

I’m driving in the city, trying to feel whole. Nothing feels right, nothing is soothing this surge. I turn the radio up really loud. It doesn’t work either. I’m trying everyday to feel ahead of the riptide, but every mother of small children knows there’s a series of going unders- of strongarming through the insatiable egos, emotions, and needs- mostly of young children… the hardest when it’s coming from myself.

I often think there’s no time for a mother to feel. Although, I hear my own voice saying at my son: “You’re beginning to make mommy very angry,” when he is misbehaving. It’s probably a horrible thing to say, but about year three I gave up believing portraying a person without feelings for the sake of my children was somehow a good thing. Maybe I do feel angry. And maybe that’s ok. I’m not an employee of my house- I live here. Still, I can’t help but thirst for that mother from the sitcoms I grew up with- that I could somehow in this way deliver. Hell, I’m waiting on her myself. I need somewhere to lay my pain. Then I remember something my husband repeated to me: Be tough and patient, someday this pain will be useful to you. I remind myself that I won’t forget this pain, that I couldn’t possibly; that because of this pain when I am able, I know to give a young mother the help I so desperately need that I am not getting.

I try to remind myself why I’m doing this. Why I’m spending my days at home with my children. I try so hard to remember that it’s a good thing I’m trying to do. Some days I feel like I’m really fucking it up. I worry that even though we have far more great times than not, my son will remember the dark episodes. Even though it’s only human to grip onto the darkness, I hold out the hope that I’ll make it clear enough through all of this that it’s better to let it pass- that it will pass.

I wish I could project myself into the future, my cheek so close to his in his darkest moments whispering, “You hold onto you, but let the rest go…” until we both see that the candle is lit, and he will remember how much of that fire was from me. The fire that is always there, pushing for the difference, moving us forward even when I was so numb that I couldn’t even say goodbye. I hope I can teach him forgiveness (selfishly to say the least) that he forgives me that I didn’t somehow try harder. But that when he looks at me as an old woman, with my knees turned in and my back turned out, he can’t help but see that I spent my most capable days carrying on, seeing every day through… and that even then, I rest only knowing this one thing: that we all can remember that the very hard job of being human in all of its very real imperfection is absolutely worth doing.

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