Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Sometimes I sit down at my computer with words and lines already written in my head.  Sometimes it's almost an entire outline, with transitions and all, and I need only to fill in the blanks.  And some days, days like today, I sit down with an ache, and not much more.  I sit down to write, blank, knowing only that I'm searching for a bit of relief and hoping to find it here.  This place where vague feelings tend to take on a life of their own.  Where confusion takes on order and my world makes a little more sense at the end of the page than it did at the beginning.

On our way home from church today I couldn't stop thinking about the mess ahead of me.  Last night's dishes were piled in the sink and overflowing onto the counter.  This morning's plates and cups and crumbs were scattered across the table and floor.  Half of a banana remained chopped and browning on the cutting board.  Pajamas were crumpled in the same spots they slipped over little feet and throw pillows were thrown everywhere.

I was in a mood today anyhow, and the disaster waiting for me at the end of an already stressful morning wasn't helping.  And so Joel took the kids to his classroom, where they love to color and play and experiment, and I went home to clean.

I never want to start cleaning.  It all looks so daunting and I feel overwhelmed just looking at the mess.  But then I turn on some soft music and I light a candle and I begin by picking up a few legos and placing them under the blue lid of our lego tub.  When I've clicked it shut I look up and notice that the pillows really aren't far from the couch, and so I grab them one-by-one and place each carefully in its designated position, where they will stay only until the boys get home.  But the colors all lined up in the right order make me happy and I feel like I can tackle the bright, plastic mess behind the couch.  And so I do.

I make my way like that from the far end of the living room to the kitchen sink, clearing and sweeping and wiping, one small task at a time.  After I've finished the dishes I grab the sponge and wipe clean the kitchen counter.  It's my favorite step.  The final transformation from filthy to sparkling clean.  Early on in our marriage Joel learned not to steal this joy from me.  Wash the dishes: Yes.  Wipe the counters: Definitely, definitely no.

I've been feeling a bit messy inside lately.  Like I can't quite get comfortable in my own skin.  I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night panicky, like I've forgotten something, but I don't know what.  And so I fix my kids' blankets and use the bathroom, since I'm up anyhow, and then I shove down any residual anxiety and go back to sleep.

During the day I tend to lay blame on the people around me.  Joel for working too much or my kids for not listening or anyone else who can occupy me with the question of what's wrong with them so as to never have to ask what's wrong with me?  Because even though I try not to look, when I do get a glance, I feel overwhelmed by the mess inside. And I can't imagine where to start.

My life feels like one giant distraction sometimes.  Kids are yelling and dinner needs cooked.  There are toys to clean up and I haven't seen the bottom of my laundry basket since last summer.  When I get a second to myself I'm scrolling through Facebook or turning on a mindless show before bed.  I can't even watch a commercial or go to the bathroom without finding some way to occupy my mind.  It's like I'm scared to be with myself.

But perhaps the first step is simply setting the mood.  Lighting a candle and turning on some soft music.  Going for a walk where I feel like I can breathe and there's nothing to distract me.  Where I can look around at God's creation and start from a place of knowing that I'm loved.

Then maybe I can begin to sort out what's inside, instead of ignoring it and shoving it down and pretending not to notice it until one normal afternoon it explodes and my husband's looking at me in shock asking, is something else going on, and I truly don't know how to answer.

At this point in life, any self-reflection must be intentional.  There's just no other way.  If I wait to have a moment, the moment will never come.  Someone will always needs me.  Something will always need done.  Just this week I was complaining to Joel that I can only stay on top of things.  If I want to go above and beyond, like deep cleaning the bathroom or matching our socks, then something else has got to give.  The downstairs will look as if a tornado's blown through or it will turn 5:00 before I realize I haven't even thought about dinner.

My whole life could be swept up in my kids and my house and all of the things needing done.  If I let it.  And so I'll try to not let it.  I'll try to walk away from the distractions every now and then and face what's inside.  To go for a walk or sit down and read or lock the door to the bathroom and steal one minute just to think.  And I'll remember that even the most overwhelming messes really aren't that scary when taken a few legos at a time.

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