Monday, March 17, 2014

Sick Day

I was sick today. Actually it started yesterday. Nothing major, a head cold but it was the kind where your eyelids ache. Basically I felt like crap.  That was tolerated by my family, even empathized with, for a moment, and then it was back to business as usual.

People wanted food, they needed things found and they needed to convince me how they were infinitely more miserable than I. That’s par for the course for any run of the mill day, but when I’m sick, it only highlights the helpless, narcissistic, overly-entitled realm I have unwittingly created. Yes, I blame myself. Why? Because I have often mistaken making my family happy as part of the fictitious job description I concocted when parenthood seemed like a desirable goal.

Now, as can easily be surmised by past posts, I am not your picture perfect Family Circle mom. I am proud that my kids know how to cook what they like to eat; they’ve been taught how to do the laundry-though they frequently “forget” when they’re down to their last pair of boxers; they know what to do in an emergency, they understand to look for a bargain first, and they can carry on a friendly conversation with someone they just met. Ultimately, I know they can survive in the wild. So, well done to me and to husband, I’ll pat myself on the back for that.

And yet, I am still entirely too concerned with their happiness. So I do too much for them. I look for their lost phone, and make sure the socks they like are clean for the game they’re nervous about, and I make that dish they prefer, and I help them buy that pair of shoes and I make it easier for them to take out the trash.

I do this so that it will be easier for them to be happier in that moment. I do this so they don’t get upset. I do this so I don’t have to deal with them being upset. I do this because it’s what I’ve always done. I do this because there was always an underlying layer of sadness and resignation as I grew up. So I did this because I felt if I could just make everyone happy (and by everyone I mean my mom) then I could relax and be happy. And there it is, my gooey nougat-ey center. Enjoy.

You’d think after 46 years of trying this without lasting success I would maybe try something new. Of course old habits are hard to break. Not so hard when husband and teenagers 1 & 2 are being big stupid jerks. And in those moments, when we hate each other, the way loved ones do, and we all feel like crap because no one likes to feel mad, or sad or shame, I fear and convince myself that that moment could be what makes it all turn to shit. And I am wrong, because that moment is more important than the short-lived happiness that comes from a found phone. That moment when we feel like crap and as if nothing could be worse is just a moment. And then dust begins to settle, the world continues to turn, something else requires our attention or interest and before you know it we’ve bounced back and realized that doom did not prevail. And, more importantly, that we survived and managed to feel happy again.

So on this sick day, I will do my best to do less. I will not fear disquiet in others. I will let the men in my life find their own damn underwear. I will remember that I can’t make my family happy, I can only help them see that they have what they need to survive when they are not happy. And I will make them bring me soup, because I’m sick, damnit.

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