While I was at the conference last week, and even in the airport on the way home, I marveled at the way I could THINK clearly and intelligently and be productive and keep multiple pieces of information in my head at one time. Compared to the way I usually feel at home, where really my entire brain is a cloud of vague information swirling around the only two thoughts I can manage to keep up with at a given time: 1) What time do I have to pick up the kids? and 2) What are we eating for dinner?
So feeling like I remember feeling once upon a time, when I could get lost in ideas and research and computer programs was downright refreshing. It's nice to know that person still exists, under a layer of exhaustion and scattered-ness dictated by my current situation.
I am very happy. I love the kids and Ryan, it goes without saying. I have a nice house, great friends, enough money to buy tacos for lunch when I feel like it.
But dang it if it isn't frustrating to come off of a conference, ready to throw yourself at your work and with a list of seemingly attainable goals that you can't wait to get started on, only to find yourself only able to muster up enough energy to prep for class because of things like multiple kid wakeups, pee soaked sheets, and a laundry pile threatening to compact its lowest strata into sedimentary rock.
Wednesday night was especially bad. Charley, historically, has not handled me traveling well and it usually manifests as some really awful moods and behavior after I get BACK. This was no exception, so every afternoon this week has been a giant fight. Bedtime has been especially rough. Tuesday night all I wanted to do was watch one episode of the Crown and go to bed. But the kids would. not. go. to. bed. I was already exhausted on Wednesday night when Ryan left for choir around 8:15. My only goal for the evening was to fold the accumulated lithifying laundry (not the dirty stuff, which was still upstairs in similar proportions), wash an overflowing sinkload of dishes, and prepare for class, since I wouldn't have time for that in the morning with my MRI followup appointment.
Two of the kids were DEADSET against these goals and wouldn't stop fooling around, hurting each other, and destroying things upstairs until I finally laid on the floor in between the doors to their rooms. I was still lying there when Ryan got home and by that time I had worked myself into QUITE the state.
I didn't start my list of chores until 10:30, and only then because I was so wound up I couldn't have imagined sleeping. I rage-washed that sinkload of dishes in record time, in the process ripping off a rowing blister that then started bleeding without my notice. I'd folded an entire basket of laundry, getting blood on each item, before I noticed what was happening.
Thursday Ryan texted at work and cautiously asked if I'd like to go have lunch, anywhere I want. This is huge because although we work about seven miles from each other, there are lots of lights and annoying traffic. Usually if we meet for lunch we meet at Jimmy John's, because it eliminates most of this nonsense. I tested his devotion by suggesting Thundercloud, which is within walking distance of my school, but a bit further for him. He was obviously quite concerned because his next text was "Great! Tell me your order and I will call it in ahead of time."
After lunch I had a meeting with two people in my department that was NOT GOOD for a variety of reasons I can't discuss here. The meeting lasted until 3:20 when I finally said "I absolutely HAVE TO leave right now", ran out the door, drove like a maniac, and was still five minutes late to kid pickup. On the way there I had read a stressful email from one of the kids' teachers and was, between everything, sobbing by the time I arrived in the pickup lane.
"WHAT'S THE MATTER, MOM? DID YOU GET FIRED? IS PAPA DEAD?" Charley wanted to know.
We made it home five minutes before the tutor arrived and while I was making her a cup of tea I got out a second mug for myself and secretly filled it with wine. Then assembled dinner for the oven and went and sat on the porch with my coffee mug and alienated a neighbor with an f-bomb-laden account of my week.
The kids went to bed easily Thursday night, which is good because I was having the church ladies over for small group. It was good to vent with them. This is why we have small group.
Also Thursday I made a decision that I needed to get some freaking control over my circumstances if I was to keep from completely losing it. I had an opportunity to skip rowing on Friday morning, which meant a bit more precious sleep. I had a healthy breakfast. I had a meeting about the school garden that was nice and productive. And then I went up to school and worked out in the fitness center (twenty-five minutes of hard erg rowing that felt GOOD. Not working out is really not an option for me anymore) before going to a coffee shop I like to accomplish a concrete list of professional tasks, some related to Thursday's meeting of awfulness.
And then I went home to pack the little kids for their overnight at my parents and attempted a little more work, but kept falling asleep. Instead of fighting it, I set an alarm and curled up on the couch. Picked up the kids, worked in the garden, dropped off the little kids with my mom, and went home to make pizza and get the kids ready for the sitter. Ryan and I went to a lecture series last night called "Hot Science Cool Talks" that was at a historic theater downtown and was just as nerdy and awesome as it sounds. The audience was fun and full of smart people and the talk was so, so good. It was also really hopeful and the speaker took extra care to not turn it into a political bitch-session, which would have been really easy to do since the talk was about climate change. She encouraged us to find common ground with people and ask questions and listen. She and the other panelists said that (most) people are generally good and want what is best, but that we have to communicate better. It was lovely.
This morning Ryan took the big kids to a scout event and now I am A.L.O.N.E. in my house with no plans for the first time in what feels like years. I lazed in bed with the NY Times for a while and then ate two pieces of cake while I downloaded pictures for the school garden bulletin board. I'm working at the desk Ryan set up for me between the living room and the dining room and looking out the window. I signed up for an 8K row tomorrow, which will be challenging and exhausting and fun. And in a minute I am going to go pick up the little kids and we will make chili and bake cookies this afternoon. I am excited.
I think I've figured it out, at least for now. Exercise. Sleep. Healthy food (and sometimes cake). Time with friends. Intellectual stimulation. This is not new information to the rest of the world, I realize. But I think this will be a much better week, no matter what the kids and my colleagues throw at me.