I wake up at 5, and stumble around in the dark as silently as possible in an effort to get ready for work without waking up Josh, who is the lightest freaking sleeper in the world. I take showers the night before, because the hair dryer is way too loud, and my hair is all crazy when I wake up, but it’s o.k., because the hair straightener and I, we’re LIKETHIS.
By 6 I’m at my desk. I do my work, or sometimes I covertly study a little, because I’m back in school now, trying to finish my CS degree. I don’t take a lunch, because if I don’t take a lunch I can leave at 2 instead of at 3, and I really, really need to leave at 2, because the babysitter has another job at 3.
When I leave for the day I rush home as quickly as possible to get Josh. I spend a little one-on-one time with him, generally legos or little people zoo (kill me now), and try to quickly scarf down a little food, although he sees this whole mom eating thing as a pretty rude infringement on his time.
At 3:15 we pick up the big kids from school. I listen to them talk about their day, help them with their homework, supervise chores (when I remember about chores) and piano practice (when I remember about piano practice). I shuttle them to activities and friends’ houses.
We have dinner, and it’s usually a pretty scattershot affair. On Mondays and Wednesdays their dad has school and study group, and we hang out without him. I put the kids to bed at 8, in theory, but Josh has a big boy bed now, and he will not stay in it, and he will not go to sleep without intervention. To get him to sleep I have to sit next to him, holding his hand, for 45 minutes or more. It is insane, and I feel myself filling with tension thinking “JUST GO TO SLEEP, JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY, FOR THE LOVE”. My husband thinks we should just put up the gate and let him play around until he falls asleep on his own, but he shares a room with his brother and he climbs on the furniture and climbs on Jake and stands at the gate and yells for us and gets tired and hysterical and then I still have to sit with him to get him to sleep.
By 9 he is usually in bed and I crack open my schoolbooks and try to stay awake long enough to study. To get the scholarships I want for next semester I need a 4.0, and although three of my classes are a piece of cake the other two require a lot of study. I can’t drink caffeine because of my stomach issues and I struggle against my eyelids for a solid hour.
When my husband gets home he wants to talk and / or connect and I am just too tired, I am just too exhausted to want to be with anything other than my own thoughts. This is not fair to him but I am not a robot, I’m human, and tired, and I just want to go to sleep. Things have not been easy between us over the last two years and I know I should be careful – I know I should spend more time on things. My friend Kristen is a therapist and she says “pay now or pay later”, and I know she is right and it nags at me, but not enough to keep me awake.
On Tuesday and Friday nights my husband is home but I have accounting and math and I leave the house right after dinner. As busy as those nights are for me, spending the evening with other adults, filling my brain with new concepts – well, it feels like an evening at the spa. I come home and fall into bed and again I am so tired, SO so tired.
This is not a complaint. I chose this. I put myself in this position. It is just a reality. I’m tired.
Taking five classes was probably not the wisest decision. I am stumbling through my life, trying to make the best decisions I can, with the insight and knowledge I have on hand at the time I make the decision. At the time it felt really urgent.
I repeat to myself the same thing I constantly tell my kids – “we can do hard things” and I know it’s true, although probably not always strictly necessary.
My sister wants to know why I’m doing this, why on earth am I taking five classes right now, and the truth is that I just feel driven. I have to get my degree. I’m not even sure if what I’m studying is something I will really love, but it is something that will increase my paycheck, and that’s what I want right now. I want financial security for my family. I don’t want to worry about money for the rest of my life.
I turn 40 later this month and it has occurred to me more than once over the last few weeks that I am probably having a mid-life crisis. It has nothing to do with how I look. It has to do with who I am. It has to do with – is this all I ever will be? Will we be broke and scraping by forever? Will we be able to help send our kids to school? Will we be able to retire?
The truth is that my life is at least half over. How can that be? I turn it over in my mind and it feels impossible. My husband interviews my mom for a presentation on senior citizens for his human development class. He asks her questions about her life, about aging, about how she has changed. I watch the video and I cry, because my mom cannot possibly be old enough to qualify for this presentation. She is still 45, the same as she ever was, and I am still in my early twenties.
She tells me that she still feels as young as she ever did, that you never feel old, that you never can quite believe how quickly it is all flying past, and this fills me with so much angst and conflict. I do not want her to age, I do not want to continue to age – not because of vanity, but because I am not really all that sure about what happens next. More and more our ideas about eternal life sound increasingly like a fairy tale.
I feel like I have to hurry, to hurry up and accomplish everything I want to accomplish. I know it is a cliché, but I feel like I have not been living up to my potential.
I sometimes read blogs, and I read things that touch me, that make me think GOOD FOR YOU, that make me think YES, that make me laugh, that touch my heart, and I want to comment, and reach out, and connect, but there is just no time. I feel like I am missing opportunities for important friendships, I think of my friend next door who is moving soon, I think of my friends back in Highland who I love and miss, and I think – those things are important, these people are important to me and they will all drift away as I become this invisible woman, someone so focused on her own life that she has no time for people, and they will soon have no time for her. I steal some time out of my work day to go to lunch with friends and I think – I want to sit and talk to you for three solid hours, just me and you – but there is no time for it, and I leave happy but wistful.
For now I am focused on my kids, and my work, and my studies. I am focused on making sure my balls all stay in the air. It is hard work, but good work, because I am focused on becoming - becoming something – I don’t know exactly what, but something more.
My gosh this has been long. If you made it this far you deserve a badge or a button or a really enthusiastic hand-shake. It has been long and serious and I am not always comfortable with being publicly serious. I have been silly for most of my life. I’m sure I still will be. It is fun to be silly. I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh. But I am getting to a place where I have little patience for my own antics.
Right now I am serious, I am driven, I am determined, and I am trying very very hard to be smart.