Fill her up

Last week, I painted our master bedroom. This may not seem like a giant feat. Coming from the person who just painted it, you are sorely mistaken. Our master bedroom is laughably large–I hate to call it a tremendous waste of space, but it’s kind of a tremendous waste of space. It runs the length of our house and features a bathroom with separate shower area, a desk cubby and sitting area, and vaulted ceilings. It is not the sort of space that a woman should paint by herself while continuing to run the roost. Which makes it just the sort of project I’m going to tackle.

I made it. Half one day, half another, bathroom the third. But by Thursday night, I tingled with exhaustion. I couldn’t focus on what people said to me. I couldn’t remember anything. Paint fumes surely had something to do with it, but the real truth was that I had given everything to that project, and I was absolutely empty.

The day I finished the bedroom, I was discussing dinner with the kids while driving them home from gymnastics and soccer. K began screaming at me, and my instinct was to explode. I single-handedly painted for four hours today, did five loads of laundry, changed all the sheets nad towels in the house, got two fillings, and shuttled you to your activities and you are complaining because you have to eat pasta with your homemade chicken parmigiana?

What she needed was patience. Energy. Except I was already on empty.

I run on empty a lot. I am constantly thinking, I can do this. This too. And this. Truly, at the time, I do have enough gas to get them done. Paint the room, clean the bathrooms, etc., etc. I feel guilty tending myself while everyone is off working, so I work too. But that’s where I’m missing the point. We have chosen for me to stay at home because everyone is off working. The kids are toughing it out at school and B is bearing the burden of being the sole breadwinner. They dole out so much energy on these places that they come home and need to be filled up. And guess who’s there to fill them up?

“What are you doing with all your free time?” My father-in-law asked me that shortly after the kids started school, and my immediate response, feeling self-conscious and judged, was “Not enough.” I want to have something to be proud of, something to point to at the end of my day that says I earned my keep. But then I have an encounter with K like the one above and realize that they need my energy. They do not need me to have spent it all earlier in the day. If that were the case, I might as well be working outside the home. At least then we’d have money to pay someone to energize us all.

Instead, what I need to realize is that at least some of my free time must go to filling myself up, as frivolous as that sounds. I only have so much gas in that tank, and no one–not me, nor the rest of the family–can run on fumes. Of course, filling myself up looks different by the day. Some days, yes, there are projects that need to get done. And some days, filling up can be cleaning up the house or yard so that I feel at peace. But the house, yard, or anything else will never be perfect. I can spend myself out every day trying. And though I’m tingling with exhaustion, the real people who suffer are my family, because I can’t give them the one thing that they need.

The next time my father-in-law, or anyone else, asks, I hope that I can take a deep breath and say, “Filling myself up.” It’s so hard for me to say that, but in truth, there’s nothing more important than being able to support my family, not even my pride. And truly, in supporting myself, I’m actually doing more to support the rest of the family than when I spend all my energy supporting my own self-worth. That‘s something to be proud of.

Band-aids make the boo-boo

You know your kid’s had a rough day when he comes out of school with three bandages and a bag of ice. Surprisingly, these grievous injuries made it impossible for him to carry his backpack, walk straight, or play cooperatively, with the only solution being (offered cheerfully by said boy) “lots and lots of videos.” Right. But instead we pulled on our soccer uniform and went to practice, where the injuries magically healed. For an hour. After which time they somehow reappeared to impede the boy from doing anything, including eating dinner, even though an hour earlier he was running laps and doing pushups. Granted, there was one roughly skinned knee involved, but it’s still a lesson in how we focus on our injuries, especially once they’ve got a couple band-aids involved. Somehow the thought of our troubles can be far worse than the troubles themselves, and when required–fully engaged in the action of life–we are far more capable of working through them than we ever imagine. It’s sad, with as strong as God creates us, how quickly our minds sell ourselves short.

Sleep dreams

I have insomnia.

I don’t remember not having insomnia, but I think it might have started after I had children. Perhaps it was the hormonal reset, or maybe the consequence of so many sleepless nights piled on top of one another. They were worthwhile, when I had a precious baby as consolation, but my kids are finally sleeping through, and I am still not. For a goodly period it was trouble falling asleep, and then it was trouble staying asleep–being up for several hours in the middle of the night. We’ve now moved on to waking early.

The trouble with waking early is that there are medicines you can take for falling asleep at the beginning or middle of the night. There’s nothing I can take–at least that I’m aware of–which works when you have only a couple of hours of night left. So I lay awake. I tell myself I will sleep. I imagine I have slept, am asleep, will sleep more. I count things. I think of everything. I think of nothing. I change positions, places, practices. I read. I write. I try the couch, the guest bed, the floor. And despite all good efforts, most of my days start between 4am and 5am, though some days–like yesterday–begin at times like 2:51am. I am indeed a morning person by nature, but in my opinion, that’s nowhere near morning.

Insomnia is a lonely place. I spend too many mornings in isolation. I regularly cry, pouring my broken heart to God–He seems to be the only other one awake at what always seems, ironically, like an ungodly hour. I beg for sleep. There must be something I am doing wrong, something He wants me to learn, some sin I have yet to acknowledge. Or it’s something I’m eating or drinking. Or not eating or drinking. There must be something!

The bible offers me the same contrary frustration. For example, James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). So I rejoice in the testing. I practice perseverance. I hang my hat on the promise of Peter: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). I await restoration. This could be a lesson in restoration.

But there’s also Paul: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12:7-10). This could be a lesson in suffering, in weakness, in God’s strength.

Most certainly, these internal debates are not helping the insomnia.

In the end, I wipe my tears. I get up and fix breakfasts and lunches and greet everyone with a cheerfulgood morning! I ignore the dull headache of exhaustion, the tingly feeling of my drained limbs. I work out, do laundry, entertain and engage. B told me the other day that I should rest when I’m tired. If I lived by that rule, I would rest all the time. I continue pressing through the day with cheer. I ignore the constant urge to shout at people: I AM NOT SLEEPING! I HAVE NOT SLEPT WELL IN MONTHS! I laugh and chatter and work, maintaining my hold on this rested disguise with weary and clumsy fingers. When it slips, I feel guilty. After all, it’s not anyone else’s fault that I’m not sleeping. But I’m not sure it’s mine either.

In the end, it’s exhaustive in itself, this process. And confusing. And lonely, again and again and again. And yet, that’s where I am right now–the middle ground of waiting with perseverance. Alone but not alone, for God truly is always awake with me, even when no one else is, with the assurance that “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Whatever this ends up being, that is.

On the plus side, I got to enjoy 2.5 extra hours of my birthday. Now if I could just unwrap a full night’s sleep…

In excess

Overheard in post-surgical recovery:

“…probably a runner. Or an excessive exerciser.”

They were referring to the cause of my low blood pressure, which is low to begin with and sank to alarming levels as I came out of anesthesia. But it does feel a little bothersome that my caretakers would have such passive aggression toward someone they don’t even know–someone who’s put a lot of trust in them. And really, how come it’s okay to have low blood pressure because you run, but it’s “excessive” if you come by it through exercise? It’s sentiments like this that make me wish I were still running, because somehow that feels more legitimate than going to a gym. Or, at the very least, less likely to be judged. Being a people-pleaser at war with being myself.