At first when I began feeling achy this afternoon, I didn’t think much of it. As a family, we work pretty hard on Sunday, so it’s normal to feel ready for a nap after lunch. But I wasn’t just ready for a nap, my body was screaming for a nap. I felt like narcoleptic Mr. Bean in the movie Rat Race (remember that?) and I was just going to fall asleep on my feet.
Then the shivers started.
Then I realized I’d been ignoring some serious pain in my...um...at the risk of saying too much...lactation machines, and being the knowledgable breastfeeding master that I am (much thanks to my mother-in-law), my first thought was the dreaded…
DUN DUN DUN…
Great. Happy Mother’s Day to me.
And that was about all I could think about. How sick I felt; how frustrated I was with myself because I was the one who allowed myself to get so rundown.
I made the conscious decisions the past three weeks to eat terribly, sleep little, and just overall not take care of myself. And I’m not saying that mastitis and unhealthy habits are directly correlated, but I do know from my past experiences that staying healthy and taking care of one’s self goes a long way in the breastfeeding department.
But something fascinating transpired tonight as I write, so I record this more for my own records than anything else. I was sick, so I had to make a choice.
I had to quickly prioritize things in my head and ask myself, “What are the responsibilities that I just can’t hand off?” “What is most important, and what is least important?”
I knew right then and there as Hope was having a meltdown on the stairs, that I didn’t have a capacity to listen. But I can’t hand off parenting. I can’t hand off really loving my kids. Matt is there to help, and he really did (dinner, tea in bed, taking the kids to the park after dinner, all while he has a final to study for tomorrow), but I’m still there; I can’t check out from my kids’ lives.
So I allowed myself to let go. And I just did what I could do. And I relaxed because I knew I’d never get to the dishes. I knew my normal bedtime routine with Hope just wasn’t going to happen. It was just going to be what it was going to be, and I just gave myself grace.
And surprisingly, I was able to live in the moment and enjoy with the little energy I did have all the sweet little things that Hope says. And surprisingly, I was able to give her grace when she began acting up about bedtime. Not because I possessed this super high capacity strength, but because I wasn’t hurrying through her bedtime so I could get on with the other things I had to do. I was just going to kick back my feet anyway. Why not do it in Hope’s bed with her until she calms down a bit? And then Ian wanted to be rocked, and I somehow found energy to just bounce him indefinitely. And my body didn’t ache so bad. And I cherished rocking him. I ACTUALLY CHERISHED it. Because I know he’s going to grow up soon.
I don’t say all this to guilt anyone into cherishing their kids more. I know stuff has to get done. Sometimes, mornings are filled with calls to incompetent insurance companies (not that I have any experience with that). Other times, the dishes just need to be done, and no one else in the house is jumping at the task, and you realize it’s not sustainable to keep pulling cutting boards out of your dirty dishwasher and wiping them down quickly. WE NEED PLATES TO EAT ON, for goodness sake.
But what I AM saying is this: I will never consciously slow down. I just won’t do it. It’s in my nature. I have to achieve things. And it drives me nuts some days that I’m pouring into these nebulous priorities called children (how do I know if I love my child they will become the person I want them to be? Answer: I don’t know. Love is a huge risk.), and some days, to be quite honest, I feel that something inside of me begging for a chance to check something tangible off my list.
And it doesn’t happen.
So I get frustrated at myself.
And then..I get frustrated at my children.
But here’s the cool part. I didn’t have to slow me down. God slowed me down. He slowed me down with a 101 fever and some severe pain. And at first, I was frustrated beyond belief. But as I rocked Ian to sleep, I realized that I was cherishing him and loving him! And I was enjoying it!
Don’t get me wrong. I L.O.V.E my babies. But the crux of it is that there is a war inside of me. And no matter what side I take, I always feel guilty (“Great job Rachel. You’re putting a puzzle together as the toilet bowl continues to collect yuckiness.” On the other hand, I sometimes get, “How can you care more about the toilet than your daughter pleading for you to do one more puzzle with her? What kind of complex are you giving her?”).
So what tonight reminded me of was this: I have to get stuff done, but IT’S OKAY to stop. It’s okay to rest. And because God seems to be relentlessly pursuing me (which is almost comical to me at times), he reminds me of that.
With that mindset, I can be thankful and enjoy the moment. And what surprised me was that by not focusing on what HAD to be done, I enjoyed my life better and I enjoyed my community of little children a lot better.
In some ways, I think I accomplished more than I have in a long time.
Disclaimer: I in no way know what it feels like to live in chronic pain. This is not meant to be some cute little blog post to diminish the physical (and mental) pain that some people live with every day. It’s not meant to encourage anyone to just pull up their bootstraps and just work harder. It’s meant to remind me, and anyone else that can relate, that those little inconveniences in the drudgery of everyday life are often the tools God uses to shape us.
Disclaimer 2: Some may be wondering why I haven’t blogged lately. It just wasn’t time. It got knocked off the priority list for a while (for a few good reasons), and I can’t say that it’s moved up in rank. Maybe I’ll blog again sometime soon, though.