I spilled the salt today. It wasn’t a big deal. I was working on another batch of kale chips and hadn’t made enough room on the counter. The salad spinner was drying on top of a bowl. It shifted and knocked the bag of celtic sea salt to the ground, the partially submerged tablespoon a perfect slide for escaping crystals. I can’t remember what I said – shoot! or ahhhhhhh! or darn. (I work hard to be PG. I used to swear like a sailor). Ada ran downstairs, tripped over her feet and landed in the kitchen with, I’m okay. Mama, why are you frustrated? I laughed and told her I’d spilled the salt but it wasn’t a problem and I’d sweep it up when I was done. Okay, she said and turned to go. Talking to herself I heard, Mama is always frustrated or tired or sad or not happy or not feeling good. I froze, listening. As she started up the stairs, she repeated herself. Mama is always frustrated or tired or sad or not happy or not feeling well.
My stomach hit the floor and tears welled as her reality, the reality of her life in our household for the last year and a half sucker punched me and dropped me to my knees.
I know she feels loved. We play. We laugh together. We draw and do puzzles and cuddle. And yet…and yet. Here is my bright light, the little being I’m doing my best to pull myself together for, holding up a mirror I don’t want to look into. Since January 2010 I’ve been pregnant, miscarrying, hobbled by a broken leg, pregnant, bleeding, nauseous, tired, scared, bed ridden, hospitalized, grieving, healing, sick. There have been months where I couldn’t pick her up, couldn’t walk, couldn’t cook, couldn’t stand, couldn’t play. We sat on the couch and watched Mary Poppins and My Neighbor Totoro, we painted rocks and built sandcastles but for far too long, I couldn’t take her to the park, push her on a swing, chase her on the beach. She’s heard me cry countless times. She already knows death in too intimate a way. As much as I talk about the gifts of the experience – and there were many – it has been brutally hard on all of us.
It’s time for a change.
Today my daughter gave me the kick in the pants I needed. I’ve been wallowing lately, allowing the story of being tired and frustrated to take over. I am a master at getting in my own way, at wanting things to be a teensy-weensy bit different than they are, at resisting joy. I’ve been working on it. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s time to stop working and play at life. Play with life.
It’s time for a new story. And until that new story feels solid, I’ll be the one throwing the dance party with my three and a half year old.