Monday, May 30, 2011

(Im)perfect circumstances

We have a full house this weekend: Big Guy is home for an extended visit, and Eldest is back from college for the summer. The issue of feeding people flashes like a warning light on the dashboard of my life: Shop! Eat! Shop! I made iced tea three times yesterday, plus a pot of iced coffee; I made large meals and bought pounds of instantly-vanishing fruit. I'd forgotten how all-consuming teenagers can be.

It is good to have the whole family together. It is also oddly unfamiliar. There are bodies here, and big ones at that. They take over the sofas and monopolize the table. They laugh in ways that are a joy to hear -- but  also loud. Yesterday afternoon one of the bodies went off to a pool with a friend, and three others went down to the courtyard to play a game. And yet the apartment still felt loud.

Usually I am good at creating my own peace in the midst of chaos. It is a survival skill we introverts with larger families acquire. In the days when my kids were little, solitude meant an occasional trip to the store, ALONE, to pick up milk. When Eldest grew old enough to watch the younger ones I luxuriated in an entire half-hour ALONE doing laundry. Nowadays I not only get the occasional solo subway ride, but regularly go grocery shopping all by myself. And I'll admit that although I can dig deep to find quiet within when it's not readily available without, life is a heckuva lot easier when there's time and space for recharging.

Re-adapting to full-scale life means I haven't had the physical space to which I've become accustomed. It's thrown me off balance. I have three deadlines bearing down on me, and the past two days I've flat-lined in the creativity department. I'm suffering the mental equivalent of restless leg syndrome, a jitteriness that precludes productive thought.

And... so what? It is lovely when my environment is conducive to easyflowing work, but sometimes I have to pick words out, one by one, like pebbles from dried concrete. A deadline is a deadline: the only real choice is to meet it in whatever limited way I can.

Sometimes work is work. And sometimes parenting has the same quality. Sometimes I'm not at my best because circumstances don't allow me to be. But my kids need me nonetheless, and so at times the only real choice is to be the best sub-optimal mom I can be. But to be brutally honest, I wouldn't be perfect under any circumstances. So I wonder: does having an ideal environment make as much of a difference as we like to think it does?



  1. Saying a prayer for you to have some quiet time. I found you through Daily Guideposts this year, and I check your blog daily. Thank you for sharing your life. I am blessed by reading your posts.

  2. That was such an excellent post; I'm surprised there were no more responses. I too found this blog just today by reading your profile in the back of Daily Guideposts. I just read your May 17 entry about finding a good school for John. I was so thrilled for you. I am childless, but my mom raised my 3 siblings with similarly serious issues, so my empathy is way up there. I was the only child who had an easy time of life (I'm 68). You are a thrilling family to follow through the pages of Daily Guideposts, as I have been doing since you began writing, I'm sure, because I have been reading it since 1977. Life must get easier as we get older, because only the young have the strength to take the hardest parts. May your future have lots of smooth patches for you to rest and recuperate.