This morning, I rose. Groggy and heavy, I drug myself to the bathroom and tried to convince myself that it was a brilliant day. That I would find something elegant to wear. That cereal piled high in bowls would suffice. I watched my son curled up next to the indention where my body formally lay. He had snuck in sometime during the night when I didn’t notice and was soaking up my warmth, his face bearing a similar expression to the moment he was first born. My heart pulled at the reminder of him rising from my body, shining and screaming. I was and am ensconced with happiness.
I stepped over the dog and toward my daughter’s room. “Raise your arms, honey,” I whispered. “I’ll help you with your t-shirt.” I hated to wake her. This beautiful girl who is growing loves to lounge around on summer mornings reading and staring aimlessly out the window at rabbits and cardinals, poetry in her brain. But it was camp day, and she had just begun the evening before settling into this new experience, singing with wild abandon all the camp songs she’d been taught by happy college kids. She slumped over and let me dress her, arms dangling with a mass of blond hair in her face.
There are layers of obligations before my day even begins. Feed the dog, let him out. Apply make-up, find childrens’ shoes. I make lunch, look professional, curl hair, take vitamins. Sometimes I just like to shake it up. Shampoo last. Kids eat on the couch. My hair in a bun. The routine of daily life can drain a soul. But soon things are bagged and packed and the kids are out the door toward the car and I think to myself that I’ve got this. That somehow in the crack of morning I have balanced this precarious rhythm.
But the garage door sticks. Some stupid light flashes and the button jams so I have to close it from the inside and go through the front. My children begin bickering in the car so we have a car-time-out despite the fact that my daughter is old enough to know better. And when I arrive at my son’s day care I remember that it’s water day, and his lunch box is sitting on the kitchen table, and he’s going to be the weird kid wearing a drippy t-shirt in the slip-and-slide. I bite my lip. Can’t everyone see that I have already remembered so much since yesterday? Last night I dreamed of a business deal and contract revisions and woke up afraid I had agreed to a venue clause in Delaware. We cannot escape our realities.
So I calmly kissed the boy and headed back to the car. I aimed it back home for a lunch box and bathing suit. Ten minutes later I loaded up again, but when I turned to talk to my daughter in the car the mug of coffee spilled, drenching my ice-blue pants in medium roast brown. I had just gotten them out of the cleaner’s bag this morning. I bit my lip again. I took deep breaths. And I began the process of negotiating the garage door opener yet again. Later on the way to work after dropping off my daughter wearing new pants I’m navigating child care for the next week. Pick-ups and drop offs and swapping weekends and arrangements. I am wondering what we’ll eat for dinner and breakfast and whether I will have the stamina to make more sandwiches.
I think of how horrible I’ve been as a friend and daughter myself, always taking, never giving. I think somehow this is my selfish season. There are days I call my mom and just rattle off what’s happening in my life without even stopping to say hello, or wondering what’s happening in her own. And when I call my friends it’s often to just vent about something without reciprocation. And I’m filled with shame for lacking an even greater capacity to love, until the dings of email remind me that I have more pressing obligations.
It rained on the way to work today, fat pelting drops that gave trucks permission to slow to a turtle crawl. And I progressed forward in tiny lurches forward toward an office, and a meeting, and executives with agendas. And when I arrived I made a comment about the traffic, rolled my eyes, and I sat down with a heavy sigh.
Today has finally begun. It’s a hair past 8:30. No one really knows the backdrop of a life.