Last week, Butterbean had a traumatic crash. We were running, despite his protests, to get me some energy for a long day of obligations. I was pushing his scooter when he hit a big bump and fell on his face. The big piece of meat fauceting blood off his chin threw me into an adrenaline-high that lasted the whole day. I was exhausted that night, sore from tensing everything, including my guilt muscles.
The next morning I got up early to run so I would be to the soccer game on time. A glorious 10 mile run at dawn. Too short, I pouted silently, but exactly right to prioritize my son.
I fell on a relatively uncomfortable asphalt hill trying to take a shortcut to Peanut’s game—braced my fall with my outstretched arm and likely tore something in my shoulder. I’ll see the doctor tomorrow, but decent amounts of pain and very limited mobility don’t bode well for a quick recovery. It’s a shoulder, nature’s most ludicrous of joints.
It’s been three days of looking on the bright side, caring for a stitched up preschooler, and trying to protect my injured arm, I’m officially worn out. I’m pouting.
Pain brings out my nastiest, grouchiest, most petulant side. I hate being injured. I have plans. I want to run and cook and write and chase my kids. I want to not regret having a stick shift and to wash three heads of hair without thinking about it. Guess how much you use your dominant arm for when you make your living on a computer and spend a good portion of your waking hours with children. I’ll help you on this one: a lot.
I’m a single parent trying to function with one arm. And that’s not a big deal, given that it’s temporary and I’ll be fine eventually. I’m lucky. Other people live with chronic pain, other people live with altered mobility…a few weeks isn’t going to be a big deal and I want to kick myself for whining.
I can make mac-n-cheese and scrambled eggs for several weeks if I have to. I can give up fencing for a few months or years. I will get back to running, maybe even in time for the race I’m already registered for. I can have the boys’ dad come over and change sheets like I did yesterday. And he can help with pumpkin carving.
But I’m not in the mood for this. Even with daily gratitude and warm bright smiles at everyone who needs one, I just can’t find the cheerful. Joyful, yes. Cheerful, no.
I have a big presentation this weekend, and I’m excited. I’m a demonstrative presenter and I like gesticulating. So I’m now rehearsing with one arm pinned against my side. I’ll be fine, it’ll be a good talk. But I’m still grouchy at my stupid decision. I gauged the slope of the hill and thought I could make it. I knew I probably couldn’t, but I live most days by the skin of my teeth, so I figured I could do this.
And I fell flat on my face rushing from on “should” to another. I got up, brushed myself off, shrugged off the blood dripping slowly from my knee, and went to the soccer game. I took more than 200 photos and chatted with several parents.
They’re delightful. We’re so lucky to have such kind people in our lives.
I’m just tired of all the DUTIES I must perform. I’m so exhausted from loading meals with vitamins and fiber and whole grains. I’m tired of driving people places. I’m tired of worrying about what comes next. I’m tired of deadlines and clients and having four minutes to myself a day. I’m tired. That’s not unusual. In fact, it’s rather droll of me to even say aloud, given how terribly sleep-deprived most of us are.
I fully acknowledge how ludicrous to write in a late-night blog post that I’m tired. But, I believe we’ve been over this: I’m so g*ddamned tired.
The man who drove us to the hospital to get Butter’s stitches lives several miles from us (we were on a run, remember, and too-far-too-drive-my-kid-to-the-hospital far from home when it happened). Our hero was so incredibly kind and selfless that I brought his family a thank you note and gift certificate. His favorite team is in the World Series tonight and I wanted to make their day easier with some Zachary’s. I handed the envelope to his wife, who told me I didn’t have to do this. We fell in front of the right house, she said. “This is what he does,” she insisted. And she pointed to my shoulder, in a sling, and said, “It’s time to slow down, you know.”
The idea is so foreign to me I can’t quite articulate why I found her insistence at once sweet and ridiculous.
How the heck can I do that?
I’m scrambling to get enough work to pay the bills, and I’m filling up every waking minute with obligations. I am not giving my kids enough, my creative work languishes in files untouched for months. There’s a long list of people I want to have over for brunch, which is genuinely the way I show love. I haven’t seen my favorite human on the planet, my grandma, in almost a month.
How exactly am I supposed to slow down?
Last night, in pain and unable to take any more sibling bickering, I lay down on the couch to take a break. I’d never actually sat on this couch. The old one got a big hole from two children pretending to be ninjas and launching themselves off it, so I scoured craigslist for a daybed. Our guest room has been rented out, and it’s nice to have a couch friends or family can actually sleep on. But we’ve had it for several weeks and I’d never sat on it.
I was lying supine, protecting my shoulder, for about a minute before I fell asleep. At 6:00 pm with my kids fighting 20 feet away about a frisbee, I just passed out.
I don’t know if my exhaustion is physical, emotional, or mental. Or all three. I cleared a huge deadline and went straight into two more, smaller deadlines. I helped my little guy get stitched up and then hours later screwed up my precarious sense of wholeness. The separation is still a logistical struggle and I’m overcommitted. All my runs, except the long run on my day without the kids, take place in the presence of a preschooler on a scooter, chasing him at top speed downhill and pushing his full 40 pounds uphill.
How dare I complain…but I can’t not type this: can’t anything be easy?
I’m worried about us. I’m worried that I don’t have enough to offer my kids or myself. I’m worried that I’m trying too hard to keep consulting rather than find a staff job.
I’m worried that if I slow down I’ll lose. Lose what, I’m not sure. But I know the feeling at Mrs. Hero’s suggestion about slowing down felt like panic.
Sheer, unadulterated, panic.
I hope, whatever the doctor says this morning, it involves the words, “do yourself a favor and play this track on the way home…”