“There’s just a lot of screaming” is my go to phrase when someone friendly asks me how I’ve been, or how I am doing. It’s standard that for each run-in conversation I am accompanied by a stroller teeming with children, all wiggling, rolling, whining, and otherwise vying for attention. Conversations are short, my patience is short.
Right now, I am sitting in bed at 8:04 pm, with the bedroom door locked because the kids have been senselessly wailing, high pitched screaming and breaking toys since they got out of the bath around 7:00. My husband is often my love and savior, but let’s be honest, he is capable of adding doubly to my stress because he is just full of whine too. I guess his belly hurts, or his back hurts. He must be aging, or dying of some slow horrendous deterioration because I can’t keep track of his barrage of daily ailments.
I threw away a box of plastic Jenga blocks today, around 7:30, after I picked them up for the fourth time in one day. My daughter, Delilah is one itty year old and as such her favorite activity is to spill and fill things. My two year old was aware of my outright frustration and he could hear it in my voice but he still dumped them out, threw them at the five year old and refused to pick them up.
Truthfully I hated those blocks anyway. My mom picked them up at the second hand “Junk” store for three bucks and they kept the kids busy while she browsed the other stuff, so of course I was handed the box with half the blocks missing that the kids found very important. “They’re kids mom, they think every single toy is the most important one.”
They’re all neon and plastic and “Tetris” which isn’t real Jenga anyway but I guess Jenga had to expand products to stay relevant, and their marketing bastardization is lying on my stupid rug and I can’t ask politely one more stupid time so I tell the kids that the blocks are going in the trash unless they pick them up. Everyone was unmoved by the threat, and unceremoniously I dumped the blocks out into the can and put the ripped up box into recycling. Something about this seems so unsatisfying. It was so quiet and the kids cared so little about the blocks that they “had to have” being discarded that I felt a bit unsettled by our own consumerism.
My grumbling husband gripes again about his body aches or the kids’ noise and I don’t know why, but it’s making it all so hard for me to be happy. So I calmly say that his complaints are making it hard for me stay positive. And he tells me to “shut up” in front of the kids, so I say “Yeah, I will shut up” and walk into the bedroom, shutting the door behind me and turning the lock. I’m pretty sure my husband is feeling the same frustration that I am, so he had to blow it off somewhere, and I wasn’t even that mad about it, but I truthfully did just want to shut up and shut them out. It’s not common being that we’re pretty mindful people who watch our language and behavior. Lately though, there isn’t much good that being mindful has done.
I walked home in sputtering downpours of chilly rain; it really is too cold for May. A week of this weather has turned my disposition into the consistency of poorly prepared scrambled eggs: just beige, flat and hard to swallow.
I found myself seeking therapy in the middle of an existential crisis brought on by trite problems that are not weather related. Mostly they’re motherhood problems of being the one to carry the burden for the family, being the care taker, feeling isolated, lonely, jealous and bitter with a side of psychotic screaming at my family in my front yard. But there are other things too, that are deeper and of the more insidious, genetic kind. These are historic battles of one’s inner self, stories from the life I want to leave in the past when I was a person who handled everything wrong. There are bad things and repressed things that have just sat dormant and festered from an abusive childhood and are surfacing now for whatever reason. My trauma storage must be full. I need to empty my files to make room for new data.
My therapist seems too normal to be able to truly understand the detrimental nature of someone like me, but I don’t know anything about her. Maybe she earned a tear drop tat in prison and covers it up with makeup really well. You just don’t know after an hour of talking to a person. We’re sitting across from each other with the assumption of trust and a judgement free zone so I had better catch myself from falling down the rabbit hole of judgement. I secretly hope she’s a wreck like me, of course it would make therapy a futile exercise in the blind leading the blind but at least she would understand what it’s like to fall apart every day.
“Going back to work, finding a yoga class, take a writing course, whatever it is, do something that makes you happy. Find a sitter, or work out a system with your husband. You need to take care of yourself, and that will help the anger go away.”
No, it won’t. I’m glad I have insurance paying for this therapy session for regurgitated platitudes I read on a Facebook meme.
In the dream land of privilege, or from the perspective of someone whose children grew up years ago, who has had some length of time to dilute the struggle, it came off as unconstructive and all of that advice is meaningless to my current life status. She’s effectively piled a bunch of dreams and ideas before me that are unavailable to my circumstances.
As I walk down the street there are deep puddles leaking in through the straps of my black leather sandals. I insisted on wearing a legitimate summer shoe for my walk to therapy, even though the weather called for boots. I paid for it with sloshing wet feet stained black from the cross straps against the tops of my feet.
Holding my unlined rain jacket closed tightly to me and keeping my head bent down against the streams of water, the rain drips off of the hood and soaks the floaty jersey material of my pants. I’m shivering and hunched in the cold temperature when I want to be standing still, with my face to the sky, absorbing the chance to have a catharsis. It’s crowded downtown tonight though, the shops have set up outdoor sale booths and there are several charity bake sales with folding tables being manned by shivering high school kids who probably wouldn’t appreciate a good “Shawshank Redemption” revival. Instead I drop a dollar into the donation bucket and carefully refuse the brownies.
On my way I pass a familiar face outside one of the stores. We see each other so frequently, and we pretend that we don’t. This is probably standard etiquette in the likely unpublished “Emily Post’s Awkward Suburban Exchanges.” I never dated this person, but we had really uncomfortable experiences together during some important formative high school years. There are a lot of those when you root down in the town you grew up in. Maybe we all just need to pretend we don’t see each other and never risk mentioning the terrible, embarrassing people we used to be. He sees me and I see him see me and this time I try the adult thing and smile, like a human acknowledging another human, but he looks away before he even sees me try to humble myself. It’s probably for the better, since I was just experimenting with kindness and none of it was genuine.
I run clumsily up my dirty, rocky driveway, around the rivulets of water dredging deeper in the little paths and veins that the previous rains have chiseled. My inappropriate shoes are slipping off of my soles and I’m struggling to stay right side up on the three inch wedges.
I push through the door into the cluttered hallway that is absolutely junk yard littered with strewn clothing, backpacks ripped open and a sock drawer ajar with unmatched toddler socks spilling onto the floor. There isn’t even a bare space on the sideboard big enough to fit my steel water bottle. It smells like Chinese food in this gross entry way and I am all too happy to ignore the mess, run to the table and dive face first into some deep fried chicken. The kids are sitting in the living room ignoring the call to eat, their plates are made up on the dining table but they’re far and away, giggling at the TV with laughs that come from deep down joy.
I’m just glad to hear laughter and I don’t care right now that they’re way maxed out on pediatrician allotted screen time. I don’t want to struggle, or beg and plead. I want to eat my food without chaos and screaming and so I let them watch TV. It’s only a small concession, but we’re doing whatever it takes to Save Our Sanity.
I talk to my husband over Chinese food about my therapy appointment, of course he laughs and says it isn’t plausible, which is exactly what I told my therapist he would say. I’m going to keep going to these weekly appointments with this person though. Sometimes I’m a glutton for punishment, but sometimes it’s better to get used to someone than to keep rushing to find something better.
And all of the rushing is exactly what I’ve had enough of.