I wrote the below essay when I was desperately trying to get the most out of a little free time. When we have a day off, are we truly able to shut down? This isn’t just for parents, but anyone who has trouble truly putting their mind in a relaxed state.
I am taking a few hours off, I decide. From everything. I am ignoring the pile of dishes that beg for my attention like my absent toddlers. All these things ring in my head like the distant church bell echoing the words, “should, should, should” But guilt is always in my atmosphere. I should update my calendar, I should watch this show, and I should clean my room. My TV is stuck on the Netflix screen saver in all its glorious temptation of shows that reach for my legs to trap me like quick sand onto my couch. I hear Jackson’s little voice interpreting the show previews, as he often does. Orange is the New Black: look at all those doctors. The Crown: The princess is looking at a helicopter. House of Cards: Those guys are monsters. Fuller House: they are having a picnic and need another dog. Luke Cage: He is trying to get through the window. But Jackson isn’t home right now, and I really don’t want to watch TV.
I should exercise. I always need to exercise. My mom bod isn’t exactly shedding pounds the way I it did in my mid twenties. But I get my share of exercise. Two four mile runs so far this week. I left today as a rest day, a day off. I look at my tummy flab. That isn’t due to lack of running rather an over exposure to my favorite things: sugar, carbs and alcohol. I want to control it, I should control it. But my breakfast of Oreo cookies and fruit snacks after a late night taco run tells a different story. I will control it tomorrow, I promise again. For now my legs will guide my healthy habits since my mouth cannot.
I should take a nap. It was an early morning and it is going to be a late night. That is what my life as a parent and bartender is like these days. I want to lay my tired body on my bed, a bed free of toddler feet in my side. I want to lie in my bed like the Te Fiti (Moana) lays into the mountainside and turns to grass with the sound of the ocean water tickling her face. But I am so tired. So tired from constantly being needed. My mind goes through a musical montage of four different voices saying “mommy” in four vastly different ways. From Layla’s ever so casual, “heeeeyyyy Mom” to Cece’s crying “mommy. Mommy. Mommy” with a dramatic head tilt as if she is cursing me to the universe. But that’s what I get for taking the nail clippers she was working so hard to climb the kitchen counter to get. My phone will chimes in tune with the montage of Mom, it is a text from Liv as it often does while I am at work. “Can I go to a friend’s house? Me: did you ask Daddy, isn’t he home? Liv: he is here. In the kitchen.
But really, I should take a nap. So I lay there. Focusing my eyes on staying close as they tremble to stay open. My brain is racing from all the things that I have a loose grasp on. Finances, kids activities, home projects, family drama, upcoming events, it all swirls around under my eyelids forcing them open through my racing heart. I can’t seem to close my eyes to the distractions and should in my room. Clothes that need organized, sold or donated, and put away. Jewelry projects that are started and beg for finishing touches, sewing projects strewn about my vanity – I was going to make my own bra. I laugh, one day. In the absence of toddlers, I can easily pull out scissors and needles and small pins, any other tool needed to release some pent up creativity.
I sit down outside in my adirondack chair, feet up and a cold glass of water at my side. I look at the trees swaying above me. The leaves tickle the sky, taking their last dance before they fall to the ground. The clouds slowly move through the blue sky echoing the sounds of my neighborhood, distant lawn mowers and car horns. I just stare at the clouds, making out shapes like I did as a kid. I admit that I really don’t know how to relax any more. My life doesn’t allow these breaks, or I don’t allow these breaks, I can’t figure out which one. When did this happen? When did staring at the clouds go from being a daily necessary child hood activity to a luxury my modern life can no longer afford? I can remember laying on the grass in my back yard, as it would tickle my sides I would stretch my hands above my head and just let the world spin above me. There was never a feeling of should, or a heartbeat of underlying anxiety that everything in my life was burying me alive. So maybe time off is just that. Stopping and letting the world unravel above me while I sit and breathe it all in, free of any expectations. Of all the things I should do, absolutely nothing is exactly what I want to do.