Sometimes I feel like I want to run away. Or lock myself in a room so I can't be found for awhile. But then I think, isn’t my hiding an indication that deep down what I really want is to be discovered? That I want someone to dig me out from where I’m hiding at the back of my closet and say hey, why are you here and hey, come let me give you a hug and hey, why don’t you tell me why you feel alone?
Because that’s love.
It’s a funny thing to be with people all day long and still feel alone. I think that’s part of being a primary caregiver to small children. I had a friend recently, who is single, tell me that after keeping a friend’s child for a day she was ready to lose her mind. She said, “If I had to have one more child-like conversation I thought I was going to go mad.” She laughed and said she had a renewed respect for those who stay home and I felt justified. Validated. Understood just a little bit.
I have been struggling with burnout. Not a little. Not just on the fringes. Not just because the holidays are hedging close and there is shopping to do and cards to send and cookies to bake and Christmas music to learn and I've had a cold for two weeks and hey, I just took on a small part-time job. No. Completely burnt out. Emptied all the way. Not a little. Not half-way. Not almost gone and about to lose control. No. Totally depleted and if you say the wrong thing or look at me the wrong way I was (am?) liable to grow another head and say something that is not like myself. Instead of helping or responding kindly or with anything positive, I’ll just turn on my heel and walk away. To heck with all of you.
Now there’s a nice Christmas, coming-off-of-Thanksgiving spirit for you, hmmm?
At my core, I’ve just been plain angry. I’m angry that when I set my alarm for 5 a.m. so I can have time with God and the chance to right the ugly in my heart, that the baby decides to start the day at that hour, too. I get annoyed with him and annoyed with God and I have said, morning after morning, with frustrated tears pounding at my eyes, “I’m TRYING!” I’m just trying so dang hard and could he just sleep, for one day, past 5 a.m.? Do I aim to get up at 4 a.m.? How far do I push my own limits for what I know is good for me before it backfires and becomes bad?
I have thrown things and slammed doors and cried in the dark of the laundry room. I have convinced myself I have no use other than to be used by everyone around me and it has left me feeling hollow and defensive ... at them and at God. Human nature is so tricky. I’m a mother and I love my boys. I’m a wife and I adore my husband. I’m a Christian and I love my Lord. But I still have this sinful nature, that while it is dead in Christ, it still remains in me. And I still get selfish. And I still roll my eyes. And I still call the person who recklessly pulled out in front of me a moron. And I do it more and more the emptier I feel. The less noticed I become.
And then what do we do? Well, what every sane, mature, adult would do.
We pout. Throw fits. Pick fights. Pull out the list of wrongs committed and wait for apologies, groveling, flowers. We wait for recognition, understanding, to catch a break. And when it doesn’t come we don’t move on. Or let go. We keep pushing, pulling. Begging for the attention. Because we need it. Gosh darn it, we just need one good word.
And we’re full-out throwing a tantrum in the middle of Target all because we feel denied.
I observe human behavior all day long. Twenty-four hours a day, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. I’m on call every moment of every day, with a few breaks now and again, but for the majority of time it’s me and little souls and I see a lot of humanity. I wipe noses and I wipe bottoms and I keep them fed and hydrated. I answer the same questions over and over, tell the same stories, sing the same songs. I try to talk about how yes, we get disappointed sometimes, but we can’t throw fits. That we must have self-control. I tell this to my three year old who nods and bites back tears when we can’t go down the toy aisle.
But me? Do I tell it to myself when all I want is to scream and fall apart?
Or is my despair, my disappointment, my frustration with the world, my anxiety... is that all enough to warrant me splitting into a million pieces and flailing until someone notices and I get my way? Get my validation? Somehow we are firm to say, “No fits!” to our toddlers but when was the last time we told ourselves or a best friend in the throes of an all out bad-attitude-parade to say, “Hey, honey, no fits, k?” We expect our kids to suck it up. We expect our spouses to suck it up. But us? Well, we do enough, so we’re allowed to let it all hang out. We’re allowed to go bananas on you any time it all gets to be too much. Right?
Isn’t that what we do?
I know I do. I’m not perfect and I don’t try to be. I’m messy and my life is chaotic. I know yours is too. And I know if you are a mother, whether you stay at home full-time or you work outside the home, that your life is a madhouse, too. We're all busy. We're all tired. We're all great at saying "Yes!" and terrible at saying, "This isn't a good time for us." This is not a battle to see who’s plate is more full.
Because the truth is? Coming off here of Thanksgiving week? Our plates are all full.
And you can focus on the noodles draining into your mashed potatoes and the pie that didn’t set up quite right or the turkey that took too long... you can see that. Or you can see that hey, you can’t see the bottom of that plate, for all the goodness. Even if it’s sloppy goodness, it’s still in front of you. It’s still yours. And your cup is still full.
We like to compare and have these little wars because we’re all just so tired. We just want someone to notice and let us off the hook. We get frustrated at mom’s who are super fit when we’re not and try to find reasons why they are the problem. We don’t have to be them and our lives don’t have to look like theirs. But we can’t hate and we can’t compare and it’s not their fault if we’re all in a tizzy because we feel frustrated and mad in our own lives.
If you don’t like something, change it.
I know this is sometimes easier said than done. Sometimes you can’t change your circumstances. But sometimes, or maybe always, you do have to put on your big-girl pants and deal with it. Your a wife. You’re a mom. You’re a co-worker, an employee, a volunteer. You do your job. Live your one life as best as you can and as fulfilling as you can and as honoring to God as you can. And if all you can do is simply get up and start the coffee pot, that’s okay. If all you can do is to just muddle through another day in stretchy pants and your husband’s t-shirt, that’s okay. If it’s another day for another crock-pot meal, honey, that’s fine. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We have made all those things - our appearance, our menus, our interior decorating, to be the big stuff. And it’s not. We need to remember it’s not.
The big stuff is things like explaining the nativity set on the table to your child. The big stuff is giving thanks and filling up your heart every moment with gratitude. The big stuff is being with your husband. The big stuff is helping where you can and making boundaries when you can’t. The big stuff is letting people know they matter, not trying to get noticed yourself. The big stuff is saying you're sorry and bigger still, asking for forgiveness. The big stuff is saying thanks for the help and thanks for the shelter and thanks for getting my heart when I didn’t think anyone else did. The big stuff is always the love.
Because the greatest of it all... when it all boils down... it’s love.
Even when and if we don’t get our way. Even when our plans fall through. Even when we try to help and it backfires. Even when we try to be patient and we just get pushed further to the edge. Even when we bite our tongues and we’re still asked to tolerate more. Even when we wake up early and the baby does, too. Sometimes it’s not so much about the routine and the to-do’s. Sometimes it’s just plain seeking and finding. If you look, you will find. God tells us that. You may not get to seek Him the way you want, but you can still seek Him. And He will be found by you.
Because that’s love.
"But even there, if you seek God,
your God, you'll be able to find him
if you're serious, looking for him
with your whole heart and soul.
When troubles come and all
these awful things happen to you,
in future days you will come back to God,
your God, and listen obediently
to what he says.
God, your God, is above all a
In the end he will not abandon you,
he won't bring you to ruin,
he won't forget the covenant
with your ancestors which he
swore by them..."
~ D e u t e r o n o m y 4 : 2 9 - 3 1