When Asher was a baby and he was crying all the time, I remember trying hard to learn something about faith and then implement it. These were beautiful ideals and I wanted them in my life because I know the peace that comes from actively seeking the heart of God. But what I remember the most is that I was sitting there crossing my fingers and toes and wishing (that’s probably not very Christian) that the person speaking to a room of mothers would add a disclaimer. Something like,
Yes, doing all of this will help you and you will feel freedom and peace. But, don’t expect to accomplish this if you aren’t getting any sleep and someone is tugging on you at all times. Then you get a free pass because implementing anything is impossible for you right now and you should just go ahead and expect very little of yourself in any regard. One day soon you will have a few more minutes here and there. I mean, mothering will never ever get easier, but in some ways it will, and then the whole mental and spiritual and emotional health thing will feel less impossible. I mean, who can possibly pray or meditate or read when the teething baby can’t be put down and the other children are coloring everything and fighting because you’re too otherwise occupied with not bathing or eating to stop them. Please just go ahead and get yourself from one end of the day to the other and let that be enough. Let your prayers be counted as butts wiped and mouths fed and floors swept and hours of sleep missed. Please go easy on yourself because some day you’ll be sleeping again and you’ll look back and see that you were doing all that you could.
Of course, she didn’t say all of that like that, and that’s just fine. It was just a wishful daydream. I think I just wanted her to say it because if I try to learn something from a speaker or preacher or a book or even a blog, I end up feeling like everyone else is doing all of these things and I’m not and therefore I’m the lazy or unfaithful one. And that’s not a good road to go down, obviously. I mean, I saw it on Pinterest: Comparison is the thief of joy.
Ain’t that the truth?
I’d like to be really peaceful and holy, exhibiting all the fruits of a healthy spiritual life, but in general I’m just not, especially right now. I mean, I’m definitely a God-loving girl with good intentions but I’m not much of a hoop-jumper and then I get worried that my lack of hoop-jumping is the reason I feel so much anxiety and depression. I mean, I grew up in church and went to a Christian college and have spent time in a hundred kinds of Christian circles and sometimes I get exhausted just thinking of all I’ve learned about what I need to do.
Lately, instead of comparison or focusing on what I’m doing and not doing, I’m trying to see what I know about God because of my life and its mess. That is this–Grace abides. It lives here. It stays. It overcomes. There is absolutely nothing I can do or not do about it. It wins. And that is so often shown to me like lightening strikes through the hearts of my children. They are carriers of grace, untainted by regulations for it.
We were having a particularly rough morning. I woke up (after several other wakings) with the anxious depressed feelings that seem to decide when they’re coming and going on their own and Miles was struggling too. He’s my more uptight little guy and it breaks my heart. He was really upset because he couldn’t get his shoes tied and I was really upset that he wasn’t just finishing with his stinking shoes already so we could get out the door for school. I was being short and biting back tears and all kinds of fun. He was biting back tears and pouting and using his whining voice. You get the idea. We were feeding each other’s crazy and it felt just plain awful. It was hovering over us and I was beating myself up for it.
We got in the car and fought about the seat belt and I was doing this thing where I feel like I’m watching myself get all impatient and I just can’t shut the switch OFF. Heather, I say to me, just take a deep breath and CALM DOWN. But I don’t listen. My insides are in control and they just keep heading full steam ahead to Nowhere Goodsville, their gas, sleep deprivation.
We wrangled and got the seat belt (finally) on and we both sat back in our seats with a huff and then we were so quiet and that finally snapped me out of it. Quiet is so rare and so…holy? that it breaks through even my worst moments and lets peace or gentleness speak. Maybe that’s why mothers want quiet to so so much. Just let me FIND it! Just give me a chance! You know?
Anyway. I tried suddenly chatting with Miles about trivial things because as much as the quiet helped, I wanted to break it to get to my son. He was staring out the window, mute. I tried a much-too-often-said apology for my impatience. He continued staring out the window. Then I got desperate or inspired or something and I prayed aloud. It was a hurried prayer because I was nearing the drop-off line and it wasn’t eloquent because my out-loud prayers never are (please don’t send me hate mail, but I get suspicious of eloquent out-loud prayers because they feel contrived and inauthentic to me, like putting on a show or using them as teaching moments while pretending to talk to God. I guess I just think that if you really really mean it, it comes out as messy as you feel, and we all feel very very messy.)
I said something along the lines of HELP and GOOD GRIEF I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO and it ended with, Please help us both feel lighter and happier than we do right now.
Then without a beat my boy said, “Instead of heavy and mad.” He said it like he fully expected that it was going to get better. He is six and and I’m thirty-six and there we were, just trying to figure it out together because nothing can be put in a box or said to be done a certain way with God and life and mystery.
He hopped right out of the car with those little Kindergarten legs and walked into school with his big boy backpack flung over one shoulder.
I called after him, I didn’t care who heard me, “You’re the best, Miles Ryan! I love you!”
He didn’t turn around because, how embarrassing, but I know he heard me way down deep. I drove home then and I said a little thank you in my heart. Because nothing is ever going to be all fixed and I’m never going to be doing everything right and we’re still here, crazy in love with each other. Miles even came home later and busted through the door and said, I’ve been waiting so long to see you!
He loves me despite how I can’t keep it together at all and how my insides don’t match the outside and how I can’t hide my pain so much of the time. He is a little God reflection. He doesn’t wait to love me until I’m doing it all right. Kids don’t expect the impossible in their mothers. He just wants me.
It’s hard to carry all the doing expectations with you and then learn how to let them go. To accept the free pass and not trample on it, and to just keep going, truly believing that it’s enough.
But it is because it’s all I’ve got.
This post is linked with one of my favorites, Sarah Bessey of Emerging Mummy, and her Practices of Parenting Community.