Over the past few days I’ve been walking around the house humming a little ditty. It’s a melody that you—and probably the majority of America—know. The song? “Let it Go” from the extremely popular Disney movie Frozen.
To the pile of laundry in my closet, “Let it go, let it go…”
To the sink full of dishes, “let it go!!!!”
To the sticky floor and teal table, “let it go!”
To the un-fluffed pillows on the couch, bed unmade, emails un-answered… “let it go, let it go.”
Here are a few more lyrics from the song:
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see Be the good girl you always have to be Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know Well now they know
Seriously, was this song written for the stay-at-home, multitasking mom?
I’ve fallen so behind in all things life over the past few weeks. Fresh off a family trip and a string of wonderful houseguests, and this new thing called “kindergarten” which eats up almost two hours daily in pick up and drop off, my home and head are a “I hope I’ll adjust soon” mess. When I first looked around I felt a panic well upside of me, “dear, Lord, please do not let a single soul ring my doorbell.”
We had contractors in the house today finishing up on the last of the repairs from a fridge/freeze water line leak. I actually apologized to them and asked them if they’d like me to sweep before they got started. They chuckled, but I’m fairly certain I heard them discussing the state of my floor.
I made a mental check-list of things to start working on, but after the list was complete I found myself exhausted and happy just to sit on the floor and let baby girl crawl all over me.
It can wait. And so it shall. (Just a short post this week as I gather myself.)
Until next time here’s a little “Let it go” to get you through your day.
Everything had been just fine. I swear it. The baby was happily playing at my feet and little man was in the basement with a small horde of his extremely loud friends playing ninja Spider-Man. I finally unpacked the suitcases I’d shoved in the back of our closet. I felt accomplished, we were having a good day.
The 5 o’clock hour was upon us. It was time to transition, to work on homework and color while I prepared dinner. The friends headed home and we gathered at the table. I pulled out the colors and stencils, gave the baby scrap paper to make her art. It all seemed good, peaceful.
Suddenly, the dogs came rip-roaring through the house. They made off with a colored pencil that had been dropped, it was quickly decimated to slivers all over the living room floor. The baby starts weeping. Little man puts his head on the table, resisting his homework. “It’s tooooooooo hard,” he whines. I’ve only asked him to write his name.
At this very moment, my husband walks through the front door. He starts talking ministry, plans, upcoming events. I begin to think my system processors might be shutting down. I had a plan for dinner, but what was it? My eye starts twitching. I try to keep my cool, as cool as a reformed temper tantrum thrower can. Now I can’t remember what I was planning on preparing for dinner. The noise is overwhelming.
What happened to my happy peaceful home?!?
He has to leave for a meeting, because there is always a meeting, and I’m thinking we’ll skip dinner altogether and eat otter pops in lieu. And is it just me but is it super hot in here? Why am I sweating, and how did the dog get another colored pencil? That’s it dog, you’re going down. I begin chasing the dog around the house, but she’s little and scrappy and suddenly much faster than I remember. Little man is still whining in the background and the baby is now whaling.
My husband has gone thankfully silent. He stands very still near the kitchen counter, wide-eyed. “Was it like this all day?” He asks. I just nod, because frankly I can’t remember the day. I think we had a good day, but now I’m not so sure. I can’t really think past this moment.
Knowing that he has to leave again in mere minutes he suggests I go take some “me time” before he departs. It feels like a time-out, maybe it is, I have a feeling I’ve starting yelling. There may have been some commands in there, “drop that pencil!” I yell to the child. “Do your homework!” I shout at the dog.
I stomp up the stairs and plop on the bed. Welcome to the witching hour; the hour that my sweet little home and sweet little family go absolutely nuts. The drama is monumental, laughable. I hide out, knowing that these alone minutes will be over shortly. The clock counts down, I take a deep breath and brace myself. Here we go.
How did it happen? The days somehow turned to months and years, and suddenly I have a kindergartener. I’ve spent most of the summer mentally preparing myself for that first day. The day we’d walk him to class, kiss him goodbye, maybe even shed a few tears. It would be surreal and sweet.
We entered his little classroom, filled with little tables and little chairs and little people quietly coloring…in the lines. Instantly I felt a sudden pang of concern, “oh no, they all color in the lines.” My brow furrowed. We don’t color in the lines in our house. We color ALL over the page. We color with six crayons at the same time. We race when we color, and Little Man shouts “I win I win!” as he fills his page with color and dimension.
But still, I worry. Will he be forced to color within the lines? Will he be made to conform?
He put on his favorite tie-dye shirt a few weeks back, a vacillated over whether to keep it on or not. “I wonder if my friends will like it,” he pondered out loud before running out the door to play. I stopped him and looked him in the eyes. “Baby, it doesn’t matter if they like it, it’s your shirt and you like it, it’s a cool shirt.”
This stage came so much faster than I had anticipated. The caring and worrying about what others think stage. He suddenly worries about what his friends think, and now I’m sure this will apply to his classmates. I hope with every fiber of my being that I’ve instilled into him his awesomeness. He is so fun, and smart, and capable, and he, we, live a bit outside the lines.
One might take a snapshot of our little family and begin to categorize us. The list might be based on appearance and assumption, it may be based on statistics. It might look something like this:
Chocolate Lab Owning yada yada yada
It’s true, we do fall into a few of these categories, and that’s fine, but these labels don’t actually define us, they don’t make us who we are. Yes, they are a part of us, sometimes for better, and given the current political climate, for worse. But at the end of the day what I think we are truly defined by is our humanity. We are people. We are the peoplest of people. We need love. We want love. Relationship. Community. Understanding. Safety.
So, because I want my son to know that we are just people, I teach to him to love past boundaries and boxes. We talk about things, the whys and the hows. And I hope that at least some of what I am saying imprints on his little mind.
To the potential dismay of his teacher I will continue allowing him to color outside the lines, I may even encourage it a little. Because we cannot truly be categorized, we do not live inside a box, we do not live in black and white. We live in a wild wonderful world, complete with colors abundant, flavors to be tasted and savored.
We arrived to Aix-en-Provence in the blazing heat of August. With the help of my new friends I lugged my heavy suitcases up three flights of stairs. Our building was pre-war, by the way our hot water would go out I assumed it predated all wars. This building was there in the beginning.
The ground floor was occupied by a fish market. My shoes often smelled of fish water, but I couldn’t be bothered. We lived on the second floor, my roommate and I, with whom I had a falling out weeks before our return to the states, never to be reconciled. Something to do with her not liking my boyfriend.
My room was yellow with a teal circle painted above my rickety twin bed. The circle reminded me of the ocean, of home, it was perfect. The room had no closet, just a few dressers where I folded my stacks of clothing, most of which I’d toss out before the year was over in exchange for more modern French attire.
My days there were, for the most part, simple. They were quiet, with lots of time for reflection, stillness, slow meals and deep conversation. When I wasn’t in class learning French—poorly—I spent my afternoons in the local tea shop, sipping Turkish tea and playing board games with friends. These afternoons went on for hours, with very little concern for the time.
Sundays were spent under the large branches of a willow tree. My favorite tree in my favorite park. I absorbed book after book in the warm afternoon breeze. Sunday evenings I’d worship at an anglophone church, whose Pastor hailed from Southern California. I drank wine, maybe too much, and sucked the marrow out of life. I visited the coast and neighboring countries. I ate, a lot, and made francaphone friends.
I often reflect on those days. I think about the relationships and friendships, about everything I did, but also about everything I didn’t do. In all the “doing” there was so much less “doing” and so much less stuff, clutter, both physical and mental.
My things—all of them—could be stored away in my small chest of drawers. I came to own very little; four pairs of pants, eight to ten tops, a winter jacket and a few pairs of shoes. My splurge items were all of my fancy dangly earrings which I purchased from a local boutique. An outfit could be transformed with a scarf, but really clothes didn’t matter. Here, I learned to embrace quality over quantity. My clothes were washed at the nearby Laundromat and hung to dry on a rack in the middle of my room.
My refrigerator, which was roughly the size of a small ice chest, was never full. I went to the market almost daily. While in Provence I never once ate processed foods, I didn’t own a microwave and only prepared what would be eaten fresh. Breakfast was fast, pain au chocolat and espresso. I’d often spend my morning classes yawning, a result of staying out too late the night prior. My kind Polish classmate took to bringing me an extra espresso on a near daily basis.
Those days I didn’t own a smart phone or a computer. I corresponded with friends and family via email, using the computers at my Université. I had a vodafone prepaid cell, which I used to text my local friends, but when the credits ran out I knew I could find them sitting around a small table sipping something in the center of town.
I didn’t know it then, but while I was living and studying in Provence I was learning more than just a new language. I was there to complete my French minor, that was my original mission, but as the year progressed I found that I was learning much more than words. I was learning to be quiet with myself. I was learning to walk in solitude and travel distances completely alone. I was learning to communicate with kindness. I was learning more about myself than anything else. I was learning to live on less and as I did I found myself enriched by the experiences and people around me.
As the year wound down, I found myself on a plane returning to the US. I wept the entire flight. It took me months to acclimate to my old life, to return to a schedule and to feel the need to update my wardrobe. Very slowly I found myself accumulating things and becoming distracted by all that which distracts.
When my world begins to spiral, as it so often does, I tell myself to return to Aix. Although I can’t easily hop on a plane leaving behind children and responsibility, I am able to return there in my head. My breathing slows. I see the Cour Mirabeau with trees arching overhead, I taste the mulled wine of winter, and listen to the music of a language that I only partially understand. It’s a wonderful way to reset, to be reminded that so much of this “stuff” doesn’t matter, that less is so often more, that life needn’t be lived at breakneck speeds.
If you, darling friend, ever get the chance to visit, go unscheduled, leaving itinerary behind. Eat the crepes, drink the rosé, walk from park to park, have a conversation with your eyes. Visit the market, do not touch the fruit, but then once the merchant has selected the ripest and most lovely for you, enjoy and savor.
The bed feels good. So good. The fan pushing air swirling around my body, which is heavy, eyelids heavy. I am tired, up with a little girl who prefers to sleep in my arms, as physically close to me as possible, until she doesn’t. And when she doesn’t she wants to jump and squirm about, never-mind the time; I’m horrified that she’ll fling herself off the bed and crack open that little ginger head.
I hold her ankle, eyes half open. I guess it’s time to get up. I plop her down on Daddy, who’s up drinking his morning cup of coffee. “Good morning, your turn.” I walk away. Back to bed, covers pulled up high. Sometimes sleep comes, sometimes not. But I lay there nonetheless, lulled by the pitter-patter of little feet.
She gabs on, “no no no” in her little voice or “milt” which is “milk” but we’re still working on those “k’s” I yawn. Knowing full well that I’m missing these moments. You can’t be away from her without missing something. There is always a story or something silly delightful happening.
They told me not to blink, that if I did it would be over. And in truth they’re right. I tried so hard not to but blinked and now my little man is five. In five years we’ve packed so much in and I dearly hope that I’ve absorbed and witnessed as much of it as possible.
With her I wish the same. But this bed is so comfy and my body so tired, so I’ll close my eyes just for a little while, knowing full well that I’ll miss something adorable, something she’s gifted to Daddy.
I am going to miss something. I just am. There’s no way around it. I must absolutely for the sake of my own exsistance blink a time or two.
Am I okay with this? Can I bear the missing out? Will I survive without that silly face? Those raised eyebrows? The pursed lips? The way she says “I love you?” Can I miss even a moment?
In a word: Yes.
Sometimes, I stand back, and in the strangest way look at my life, my children, my husband, the interaction of those around me, and the interaction of myself within those interactions. It’s all very surreal, the bigness of it, and yet the incredible smallness of it. I become a fly on the wall of my own life, and see it for its beauty and pain, light and depth. I see its tenderness, its fleetingness and yet permanence.
This step back allows me to process my very existence. To weigh my life on the scale of my beliefs, my faith, my hopes, my dreams. It allows me to see that smile as a drop of God’s very own love; it allows me to see miracles; it allows me to live. It gives me the ability to breathe, in a place and space that at times can be so burdensome.
Most of all it allows me to miss out. I realize I can’t be there for it all, nor can I completely deplete myself in order to “show up” to all of life’s many many events. And there are so many. And so many that are just wonderful, it pains me to miss out. But I just can’t, we just can’t, do it all.
I am just one. Not super human nor super woman, and so I must choose, over and over again, what to miss out on. Some days it’s the missing of that little voice in exchange for a few more sleeps, and sometimes it’s something larger, bigger, where my presence will be noted and missed, sometimes it comes with consequence.
This, as difficult as it may be, just must be done, for me, and for you my dear friend.
It’s okay it miss out. It’s okay to blink. It’s okay to let out that breath that you’ve been holding for so long.