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Challenge: I Feel Bad About...

Embracing the Mess

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So one of two things is happening: either I'm going crazy, or I just need to accept the fact that I have a love/hate relationship with my life at the moment. As a wife, mom of a toddler, and middle school teacher it's entirely possible that I have indeed gone crazy--yet, none of these roles are ones I want to give up, at least not in this moment on a peaceful Saturday morning when I'm writing, sipping coffee, and listening to...silence. Ask me again this afternoon, say around 5:00.

And herein lies the problem. Regardless of which role it is, the pattern is the same--there are times I love my job

as a wife

as a mother

as a teacher

and other times I quite honestly want to throw in the towel. It seems that just when I feel on fire, happy, and like I have it all figured out--something happens that sends me into the downward spiral. The one where I'm telling myself "I can't do this anymore". Whether it's a full-blown meltdown from my toddler after a long day at work, yet another fight with my husband over the s-a-m-e d-a-m-n t-h-I-n-g again, or that moment when I'm actually semi-caught-up at work only to be pulled under again, the internal monologue is the same. (And it's pretty epic if all of this happens at the same time.) The frustration is so palpable it feels like it might eat me alive and I ask myself the same thing every time: what the bleep did I get myself into?


An outtake from a recent photo shoot...and, no, he's not laughing...

But what really makes me question my sanity is that only a few moments later, I can fall in love with that same hot mess all over again (although most times it's not so right away). My son can go from screaming maniac yelling "leave me alone!" to giving me the most sincere hug and kiss that sends love throughout my body right down to the core of my soul, and all is well again for the moment.

I'm no expert, but I think it's a toddler's ability to feel the emotions of the present moment--overwhelming frustration or overwhelming joy--without the ability to carry over old resentments that allows them to so easily flip a switch. They're totally in the "here and now": when they're angry they totally embrace being mad, and when they're happy they're all in there, too. And I think it's from watching him that I'm learning it's okay for me to do the same.

Whether the conflict is with my job, my marriage, or my child, my ego wants so desperately to fight to hang onto all my reasons why I'm entitled to want out at that moment--all the built-up resentments, the never ending cycle of frustration. I fight tooth and nail to hang onto my agenda when my husband & I are fighting, but then I see him doing something a bit later that makes me totally swoon and I feel that love rise up and I have a choice: to hang onto the reasons I'm angry, or to shake my head at the craziness of this life and surrender to the love and embrace the fact that this is marriage--I love it sometimes, and other times I don't. And the same holds true in my life as a teacher and mom.

In this crazy stage of life as a teacher, wife, and toddler mom simultaneously--all very difficult roles that make me feel like throwing in the towel one minute, and feel lit up & inspired the next--I suppose the best solution is to just surrender and accept that I have a love/hate relationship with my life at the moment. To let go of the idea that one day I will magically "arrive" at this destination of happiness--this image I've created in my head of what it will look like one day when I'm no longer having those frustrated thoughts, and I've found the key to having my life in perfect order...

I made it to the gym everyday...

Classroom and house are caught up...

Husband and kids are smiling, well-fed, and finding clean towels readily available...

And--best of all--I'm my ideal version of me because I figured it all out.

Whether it's in regard to our families, homes, bodies, or careers, we all have that illusion in some form or another--that Ideal Self we're always striving for--and we beat ourselves up for not having figured out how to get there yet. The problem is that day will never arrive and, all those days in the meantime waiting to figure it out? Those were the days that made up our lives.

So I'm not waiting anymore. I've got to learn to simply embrace the messiness of life right now, otherwise it will just pass me by. I don't have any magic solutions for how to get there, but I think it could start by just waking up each day thankful that I get another one...thankful that I do have a job, husband, and child to frustrate me, because many people's burden to carry is NOT having those things to be frustrated with.

But, at the same time, this tape in our heads that says "shame on you, you should be thankful, not complaining" when we ARE frustrated, doesn't really serve to make our hearts feel thankful in that moment, it just serves to shame us. In those frustrated moments we WILL return to feeling thankful again, but only after we've let ourselves feel what we feel. I know in my heart that if I deny that moment, pretend the thoughts aren't there, put on a happy face, and don't shed the tears or scream in the pillow, that I will walk around like some kind of robotic Stepford wife that looks great on the outside but feels desperate on the inside, and that's not what I want. If I want to live a real and authentic life, which I do, I have to embrace both the dark and the light--to be like my toddler and fully accept whatever it is I'm feeling in that moment, because it CAN be really messy sometimes.


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