Last week included a higher-than-average number of meltdowns at our house. Not my boys’, mind you – my own.
One day I informed Facebook of my misery by announcing that I was researching au pair programs. (I was about 95% joking, but the remaining 5% was engaged in some serious fantasizing about how amazing life would be with live-in help.) Later that night I ushered in the boys’ early bedtime with a plea for cocktail recipes. I was tempted to follow one friend’s advice and just take a swig of each bottle:
Another day I ran around in a serious (and probably very scary) frenzy, shouting and shooing the boys out the door to an appointment. I was nearly wild from the pressure of getting everybody dressed, feeding lunch, brushing teeth, loading bags, wiping bottoms, and pinning down a certain (screaming, thrashing) baby in order to change his poopy diaper. In my mind, I screamed “I DO NOT UNDERSTAND PEOPLE WHO ARE ABLE TO ARRIVE ON TIME!” In the car, I forbade the boys from speaking for the first few minutes of our trip so I could focus on calming my bad self down.
Yesterday evening, I put an end to hours of (my own) agitation by plopping the baby in the stroller, taking the boys over to my husband (who was working in the garage), yelling “I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND!” and running back to the house empty-handed. (I literally ran, waving my arms and jumping around like some sort of madwoman.)
I’m not cut out for this.
It’s all I could think as I came back inside from the garage: I’m not cut out for this. I love my boys. I love being a mother. I love taking care of my home and my family. I believe that I’m the right one for the job. But I am not cut out to do it every hour of every day.
My brain can’t handle that constant stimulation. There comes a point in any given day around here, on any given task, when I just shut down. I sit surrounded by my work and by others’ needs and I fail to see a single thing I could do to make the situation any better.
I feel paralyzed.
I’ve already said it about a million times on this blog, but I am very easily overwhelmed. For heaven’s sake, I can hardly function in Target – let alone a shopping mall – I’m so affected by the overabundance of sights and sounds. So a day’s worth of demands and arguments and diapers and meals and chores and interruptions and interruptions and interruptions… they often put me on what feels like the brink of sanity.
Not that it really matters, but I’m beginning to think that this thing about me is maybe an actual, diagnosable thing. (Lately I keep hearing about adult ADD. Could that be it? I’m honestly not inclined to find out.)
Why doesn’t it matter? Because whether or not anyone else views my thing as a thing, I have finally accepted it as a part of who I am – just as inseparable from my personality as my love for people or my inclination to broadcast my opinions. And after years of being frustrated with myself for my highly-distracted, easily-overwhelmed ways, I’ve finally (mostly) stopped beating myself up over them.
I’ve stopped telling myself that my personality is my fault. I’ve stopped convincing myself that I can just get over an elemental part of who I am.
I’ve started to figure out how to work with my weakness.
How? I’m giving it – them (I have many) – a lot of thought. I’m trying to understand how my weaknesses interact with my experiences and responsibilities. I’m strategizing ways to minimize their effects.
I’m paying attention to my triggers – the things that shut me down or heat me up. I’m doing little things to address the little ones. I’m chewing on how I should resolve the big ones.
I’m recognizing that clutter and unfinished tasks are deadly powerful (and harmful) stimuli to me.
I’m acknowledging that when I don’t take care of myself, I’m ill-equipped to handle not only the stimuli, but also the people I love.
And (after my week of meltdowns) I’m finally accepting that I indeed need help in caring for my children. I don’t need a lot of it, but I do need a few reliable daytime hours a week when I’m not ‘on.’
So I’m working on it.
Tomorrow, I’ll provide some examples of how I’m going about this work. (You know – in case any of you happen to share my particular weaknesses – or enjoy watching the sideshow that is the frazzled, overwhelmed, procrastinating, perfectionist, impatient, stay-at-home mommy trying to deal with herself.)
But until then, I’ll ask you this: Is there a part of you that trips you up? If there is, do you face it head-on, or do you wish it away?