Sunday, April 29, 2018

Jenga Straws

I couldn't hold my emotions in anymore.  I got up from my work chair, leaving it spinning as I stood too quickly, and went into the tiny bathroom adjacent to the patient therapy room.

As soon as I closed the door behind me, I cried.  I gave in and let the tears flow.  My face did that squished up unattractive thing.  I pressed a tissue just below my eyes to soak up any dripping mascara.  I didn't need to have my makeup cried off so everyone could see what a hard time I was having AND how my undereye regions look like someone with a terminal illness.

It wasn't that something awful had just happened.  It had been building all week.  I kept thinking about the phrase "the straw that broke the camel's back."  I had been carrying a load of straws, and the final one had just been placed on top.

I actually felt like I had been playing a game of Jenga with my straws all week.  My pile of straws included things like my 8-year-old daughter with a broken leg, my boys surviving middle school, my stomach refusing to just freaking digest food, my messy house, our family calendar, increasing migraines, my body image, and all the normal things that a part-time working mother of three balances.

These straws were constantly shifting, and new ones were thrown on the stack. 

I cleaned my messy house in an attempt to clear my mind, and within that very day, my lovely children turned my house into a national disaster.  I have been faithfully working out to a specific 90-day fitness system, making sure to get in at least 4 one-hour workouts per week.  This week I hit the 30-day mark and weighed in.  I weighed exactly the same as I did at the start.  Exactly.  I lost 0.0 lbs.

I eat gluten-free and take specific supplements in an effort to help my ridiculous stomach digest normally, but this week my stomach has been especially painful and nauseated.  I haven't been sleeping well, and I have no idea why.

I just felt like none of my efforts were making any difference in any area of my life.

On the plus side, I had been doing well taking care of Nora.  Her broken leg required help in all sorts of ways that I couldn't have anticipated ahead of time.  We had hit our groove with school.  I had a good handle on how to get myself ready for work as well as getting her ready for school each morning.  On the day I ended up crying in the bathroom at work, everything had started fine.  We got the boys to their school and got to Nora's school a little early.  I walked her in (she's on crutches) and carried her back pack.  I helped her to her desk and propped her foot on the extra chair and pillow I had made her.  I put her lunch in the basket and her folder in the bin.  I handed her the activity book I had remembered to bring for her to entertain herself while she waited for her classmates to arrive.  I checked my watch and felt good that I had exactly enough time to get to work on time.  As I bent down to kiss her goodbye, the principal walked into the room.

I had met with Nora's principal, teacher, and school nurse earlier in the week when she first returned to school.  We discussed any accommodations she might need, what the schedule would look like, how I would help her in and out of school each day.  I felt so blessed that my daughter attends an amazing school with such caring staff.  These three women were so kind and so willing to do whatever was necessary to help my girl.

But on this day, the principal was coming in to let me know that I needed to start walking Nora just inside the school and leaving her on a bench there to wait for someone else to help her to her room.  She said we couldn't be in the classroom "unsupervised" in the mornings.  I was confused.  And flustered.  She was so sweet and delivered her message like she was telling me my outfit was cute.  Nonetheless, I started to stress sweat immediately.  All I heard her say was, "You're doing it wrong."  I had to get out of there.

I felt the sensation of the last straw landing on the pile.

I arrived at work 5 minutes late.  I am never late.  And I walked in at the exact same time as my boss, so he definitely saw me arrive late.  There were already two patients in the waiting room and the phone was ringing.  I tried to switch from Mom Mode to Work Mode, but my emotions were already spilling over.  Thus I ended up crying in the bathroom at work.

As I reprocess all of this now, I realize that I had let a lot of things beat me up during the week.  People's words, my thoughts, numbers on scales and tags, circumstances.  Not only did I have bruises and fractures from receiving the blows, but I also had bloody knuckles from taking my own shots.

I think a lot of the thoughts that swirl around in my mind are coated in my own misconceptions and insecurities.  It's time for them to take a little bath in truth.  My house is messy, but it doesn't mean I'm a bad wife.  It means my family members suck at picking up after themselves.  It means we could all do a better job picking up after ourselves, and it's not all my responsibility.  I haven't lost any weight, but maybe my heart is healthier from my exercise.  My stomach is a constant source of pain and frustration.  I am doing the best I can to make good food choices, and some days are good.  I'm a super rule follower, and I never intentionally went against any of the arrangements we had made with Nora's school.  The principal has a responsibility to manage the school just like I have a responsibility to manage my kids.

Nora's leg will heal.  Some days my house will be clean and I'll feel good.  Some days I'll take my chubby hindquarters into the work bathroom to cry while my stomach hurts and I remember someone's critical words.  The beauty is that I get to start fresh each morning.  Sometimes I don't even have to wait for the next morning.

After I finished my ugly cry and wiped my face, I came back out to my workstation.  I took a few breaths in and out.  I turned to my coworker and said, "Morning:  take two.  How are you today?"


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