Life,  Parenting

February in the dark

Two weeks ago my husband and I got into a shouting match. Thanks to Fitbit, I know that my resting heart rate has been up ever since. We’re over it by now, but still uneasy. The actual argument (as far as words hurled) was secondary to our underlying pain and frustration, which might be explained in calmer terms like this:

  • I’m tired of having a hole where our kitchen used to be; everything takes 18 extra steps and there’s not a square foot of available space anywhere in this house.
  • Being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the demands are relentless, and I’m afraid I’m bad at it.
  • I can’t keep going under this amount of stress. Something has got to give.

I finished my MBA program at the end of November and officially graduated mid-December. Before it had even sunk in that I no longer had schoolwork to do and was actually finished (yay!), a water leak in our kitchen filled that potential void, giving us plenty to worry about and spend money on — on top of the usual Christmas stress and expense. We had the leak fixed mid-December, got water damage repair bids, called our homeowner’s insurance . . . and waited.

Fast-forward to today, February 17th, and our kitchen has been completely torn apart for five weeks. After the holidays, things slowly started to happen: appliances and cabinets were removed, asbestos (from 1970s flooring) abated, and the kitchen dried out. It is dry and we are waiting to rebuild. After two weeks of nothing, the contractor called today: they’ll come out tomorrow to look at the job.

Meanwhile, our kids (ages 9, 12, and 16) continue to delight, comfort, confuse, frustrate, and at times, enrage us. Our oldest was perusing my bedroom shelves and noticed that the fiction series I’ve been escaping to lately was shelved between Transgender Teen and The Explosive Child. She read those titles out loud and said, “Oh Mom, I’m sorry . . . you’re . . erm . . . doing a good job.” (Thanks, Honey.) She didn’t notice Smart But Scattered on its side at the end of the row; I stalled out reading it after taking the quizzes to identify the executive function weaknesses I shared with my child. Good information to have if you feel at all empowered to do anything to address them, I’m sure.

My husband is home all day with the disaster that is our house, tied to the chauffeuring demands of our kids’ school and activity schedules. I get to go to work. It happens that work provides an extra helping of stress right now, as we prepare for a system-wide computer change driven by an outside timetable. Everybody needs a drink . . or, more appropriately for today’s work environment, a chocolate bar . . . or, for those with a healthier mindset, an extra walk around the block. Everywhere I look, people are at their limits.

Executive leadership and our wellness committee have provided official self-care activities and encouragement. We had chair massages, yoga, and guided walks as options during the break at our last professional development day. I didn’t do any of them, of course, because I was working on something else. More than twenty years in Human Resources and one of the truest things I’ve learned is that it’s easier to give other people advice (great advice!) than to follow it yourself.

Driving home the other night, I heard an interview with a researcher who found that the lowest point — the absolute nadir of lifetime happiness (statistically speaking) — was at age 47.2. At this moment I am 47.1 years old. My husband turned 49 over the weekend and I told him that he was on the upward swing towards happiness. He doesn’t feel it. I assume it’s like the lengthening of daylight hours after the winter solstice: the days grow longer in infinitesimal increments, ticking forward until suddenly you realize that it’s still daylight at 4:30 PM and, oh! isn’t that nice? Before you know it, you’re driving home from work in the daylight too. Those seven weeks from December 21st to mid-February are a dark time. Intellectually we know it’s getting lighter, but we can’t perceive it day by day.

Early February is the pagan sabbat of Imbolc, which carries the same idea — the seeds of spring are stirring in the ground, but we can’t see them above the soil yet. Have faith that things are unfolding; that we’re on the upward swing. We need to be. Something’s got to give.

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