I wake up feeling exhausted, sore, and old (I’m only 32). My kids have been asking me for about 20 minutes to get up and fix their breakfast, so I finally drag myself out of bed. I put on the clothes I wear every day, a t-shirt and some shorts. As I comb my hair and brush my teeth, I gaze at the pale skin on my face, the bags under my eyes, the lifeless cheeks and lips. I sigh and trudge to the kitchen.
There are only eggs to eat since I didn’t plan ahead properly. The sink and counter are full of dishes, with food fossilizing on them from the last five days. I better wash some today, or I won’t have any clean dishes to cook dinner with.
After breakfast we get ready for school. To make space for my husband and kids, I move the clean laundry pile that has been immobile for two days to a different part of the couch. I make a mental note for the next time I go upstairs: take out the load that’s still in the dryer, and wash and dry two more loads so we’ll have something to wear tomorrow.
My two oldest children ask me if I’ve finished fixing some dearly beloved broken toys; I snap irritably that I haven’t, but that they’ll be the first to know. The damage occurred weeks ago, but they still ask me every day and receive the same answer.
The baby later comes by screaming and pointing at the cereal box, demanding that it be her snack. I yell back that she needs to have a healthy snack since we had some sugar earlier, and anyway she should have asked nicely.
After dinner I leave all the crumbs on the floor around the table. I’ve already swept four times today, and there will just be more added first thing at breakfast tomorrow.
Once the kids are in bed I crave forgetfulness and oblivion, so I spend the next 2 hours scrolling through Facebook and Pinterest. I eventually lose interest and flip through a novel, but can’t muster any real desire for even this slight productivity.
As I shower I remember some “thinking of you” notes, unwritten and unsent to my family members, and with a sinking heart I realize today was the deadline those notes were needed.
At the end of the day, I am a failure. Can’t keep a clean house, even though I stay home all day; on the days I could, I instead waste time. I want my kids to know I love them, but I don’t show them by fixing what’s really important to them. I want them to grow into emotionally and mentally stable adults, but proceed to lose my temper with them. And what good am I as a friend, when I can’t even do right by my family? For that matter, when was the last time I really put any effort into my relationship with my husband? I’m a waste of space as a person. What’s the point of me and my life?
These have been my thoughts many a night. I finally broke down and bewailed my worthlessness to my husband. His response: “You bear God’s image. You’re special to Him, and He loves you. I love you, and your family loves you.” And he hugged me as long as I needed.
As I rolled over to go to sleep, a truth from sci-fi and fantasy books presented itself with sudden clarity: names have power. I am the wretch described above; but I am also more.
I may be a slob compared to some women, but I am PRACTICAL. Wearing nice clothes would be ludicrous while washing dishes, cooking dinner, washing clothes, changing diapers, and cleaning the house. I certainly have good hygiene—when it comes to my body, it stays clean. I don’t put on makeup because there’s not really time for more than the basics of good hygiene in the morning, and anyway it would get rubbed off throughout the day on furniture or clothing as I play with the kids. Ditto for putting my hair in an updo. I’m going to be less harsh in judging my appearance.
I am lazy; not gonna sugarcoat that one. But I’m also RESTING. When I’m tired my body starts shutting down, turning any task I’m performing into a difficult chore that takes 2-3 times as long. If I wait a day or two until I have the energy, I can complete the task much more efficiently and cheerfully. And since I’m my own manager, I’m going to stop caring that my house isn’t run like “everyone else’s.” I’m performing according to my strengths and weaknesses.
I am disordered, but I’m IMPROVING. Disorder comes naturally out of having 3 kids under the age of 6, but each night I strive to have every toy belonging to the children put away. I encourage them to put things away as soon as they’re done with them, and I apply that rule to myself. The laundry may sit a couple days on the couch, but that doesn’t mean I’m letting the whole house fall to ruin either. And in my room at least, I’m doing my very best to keep my stuff tidy and neat.
Procrastination goes hand-in-hand with laziness, so there’s a lot of truth here. But I do REPAIR things. Much gets broken in a house with kids, and some of it is more pressing than another broken toy. There are pages torn out of books, holes torn in clothes, screws taken out of furniture, dishes shattered, carpet torn up, shoe racks falling apart, and on and on. And my kids aren’t demons, just ordinary kids. Heck, even my husband and I break things. So it’s no wonder I don’t want to spend all my free time fixing stuff. Add to that my natural forgetfulness, and sometimes stuff stays broken awhile. But I do eventually get things fixed, and there is satisfaction in bringing back to life what I can. And the gratitude and love in my children’s eyes tells me that they forgive the wait.
I have a dreadful temper. I don’t recall having one before I had kids, but its presence is undeniable now. There are days I am a tyrant. But I am GROWING. I always apologize for yelling, and tell my children that losing control was wrong. I explain how their behavior made me want to respond wrongly, but that it doesn’t excuse my own misbehavior. I do not succeed every time with controlling my temper, but there is improvement. Wrong habits are easy to form, and difficult to break, but I will not give up trying to break this one.
I’m done feeling pitiful for not sweeping the crumbs up for the fifth time. There are times we need to recognize when to quit, and this is one of them. Plus, I’m PREGNANT. There’s only so much energy for each day; redoing the same task times infinity each day is unsustainable. I’ll feel like it tomorrow. Or I might have the kids sweep up their mess; they’re old enough.
I do seek the comfort of total oblivion far too often, but I’m HUMAN. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, after all. One thing that has helped is to set a time limit on my mindless activities—10 minutes per day for Facebook and Pinterest each. By reserving a smaller time slot, I become more invested in the friends I read about, and more focused on the projects I want to start. Setting this cap has also forced me to begin looking elsewhere for mental pursuits—I’ve been doing research in several areas that interest me, and I’ve made some progress on projects I’ve long put off.
I don’t stay in touch with people like I should. But I am LOVING. It’s precisely because I do care about the different people in my life that I do reach out to them, even if it’s only once a year. Again, this area needs improvement. Yet again, that doesn’t mean I am heartless. I have the satisfaction of knowing that any promise I make to my friends and family I fulfill, because I love them.
At the end of the day, I am FORGIVEN. More than anyone else, my God and Savior loves and forgives me, in spite of knowing me better than anyone else.
At the end of the day, I am BLESSED. I have a husband who sees me at my worst, yet chooses to see the best in me (and helps me see it, too). My children think I’m the best mommy in the world, horns and all. My friends have yet to be scared off, so my luck still holds in that regard. There’s certainly room for improvement in the life of Melissa Koser; but there’s also room for GRACE.