Traffic was awful this morning.
Traffic from the house to the school; traffic from school to the highway; traffic from one highway to the next; traffic from my brain to the tightness in my chest.
Awful, all of it.
Even Grace noticed it. “Mommy, that’s a lot of cars! They’re behind us and in front of us. No one is moving! How are we going to get to my school and see my Emily friend?? Ugh, we are never getting out of this carrrrrrrr-Mommy, what’s wrong? Are you crying?”
On the rare occasion that I have myself a good car cry (I usually prefer the shower), I’m careful to be discreet about it, lest I become a tear-stained, booger-filled meme on social media after getting caught by a fellow driver. But I guess I got sloppy this morning and let out a lone sniffle.
One little sniffle- and my 3 year-old hawk was on top of me.
What’s wrong. What’s wrong….sometimes that’s a loaded question, my dear.
Sometimes you can do everything right- cross all your T’s, dot all your I’s, and shit still goes sideways.
You can be the most empathetic, patient, open-minded parent on the planet, and encourage your children to express themselves (obviously, if you’re crying freely while shampooing your hair and during the merge onto Rt 80, you encourage self-expression)- but you can still find out that your child has made a decision about a very fundamental part of himself, and refuses to let anyone know because he’s terrified of a lack of acceptance for who he is.
You can work on a marriage, and bend and twist yourselves into unrecognizable shapes to make time for each other, but every so often it still goes a little bit off the rails.
You can love the hell out of your parents, beg them to put down the cheeseburger and pick up a piece of broccoli once in a damn while, and dangle your kids in front of them as incentives to hang around- but eventually they’re going to start fading on you.
You can be a good friend, be present and supportive, and maybe even stretch yourself so thin that you almost snap like a twig being trampled by a pit bull- but sometimes, some of those friends are going to decide that your storyline no longer fits in their book (which is weird because I’m a writer, but whatever).
You can exclusively shop from the Target clearance rack, stop buying the expensive mac and cheese, insist that weekend car trips are “vacations,” and spend so much quality time balancing your checkbook that it could probably walk a tightrope- but sometimes, you’ll still need to look for a second job because the ends just aren’t meeting.
You can relentlessly chase your passions, and write your heart out every day, and start so many projects that you very narrowly avoid posting a story about toddler boogers on your vegan food blog- but sometimes, the posts will fall flat, the writing collaborations will stall, and the freelance work will all but dry up.
You can be as careful as possible, but eventually you’re going to forget that you’re wearing your super-cute but slightly dangerous Christmas-themed socks, slip on the landing, and go flying down a flight of stairs with one arm flailing awkwardly behind your neck.
And you deal with these things, because hey, that’s life. You don’t sit there, cry over them and let them ruin your day.
Unless of course they all dance into your head at once like glittery, demented stress-fairies while you’re sitting in a gazillion-car pile-up.
So in that case, yes, you cry. You sit in your car, and you rub the arm that’s still sore from your thrill ride down the hallway stairs last weekend (and wish you could rub the butt cheek that took the brunt of each step…ooof), and you decide that you’re going to let all that crap ruin your day.
Because that’s just too much, isn’t it? That’s too much at once. It’s like standing in front of an oak tree with a broken rake and watching every leaf swan-dive to the ground at once, each giving you the finger as they flutter past your face. When that happens, you do the logical, adult thing.
You throw the rake down, you scream, “OH, COME ON!” and you storm off in search of something dipped in chocolate.
So I threw down my rake, and, being that it was 8:30 in the morning and I had no chocolate, I cried. Silently, of course, until that one lone sniffle escaped and Toddler CIA discovered me from the back seat.
I mustered up my “Mommy’s being silly” voice.
“Nothing, Gracie girl. We’re just having kind of a crazy morning, right? Geezie Louisie!”
I actually say things like that- I’m often surprised my kids don’t throw tomatoes at me.
“You got this, girl.”
“You got this.”
I wiped my eyes, turned around and locked eyes with a little girl who was wearing granola bar crumbs on her lips, a dab of applesauce on her nose, and an “Oh, shit, did I just say a bad word?” expression across her face.
“You, my dear, are right. I’ve got this.”
And Applesauce Crumb Couture broke into a huge, proud grin that made my heart skip a beat.
You can juggle it all, and juggle it well, but even the Cat in the Hat dropped all that crap he was dancing around with eventually.
There will be mornings when you calmly remind yourself, 87 times, “I need to take the garbage out before I leave for work,” and you’ll still pull out of the driveway, get to the corner of your street, and blurt out, “THE GARBABE!” so suddenly that your son throws the book he was reading at the ceiling.
There will be late nights when you make lunches so lovingly and creatively that you float upstairs to bed daydreaming about the adoration and accolades your children will bestow upon you the next afternoon…and you’ll forget to put those lunches in the fridge, have to toss them in the trash the next morning, and send two very disappointed children to school with soy cheese sandwiches and suspiciously over-ripe bananas.
Hey, it happens.
Sometimes shit goes sideways. All of it. All at once.
So do the adult thing. Scream, cry, find something dipped in chocolate- but then pick up the rake, and tackle one leaf at a time if that’s all you can handle.
Remind yourself that eventually the pile-up with clear and you’ll be sailing again.
And remember the lesson that was revealed to me by a very wise, snack-covered little yogi long ago (ok 3 hours ago)-
You’ve Got This.