When doing nothing is the answer

Why bother?

Because right now, there is someone

out there with a wound

in the exact shape of your words.

***

I saved this image to the desktop of my computer because it’s getting to the point over here where I don’t have the desire to write. Why add my voice to the already-crowded chaos of things happening on the internet? What more is there to say or to add?

The exhaustion of these past few years is taking a toll, and I’ve done everything I can think of to avoid writing. I’ve organized closets, vacuumed cobwebs from the highest corners of our ceilings, picked up paint flakes that my middle child peeled from the inside of his closet, and stared into space for countless hours.

People who aren’t writers don’t understand this. My therapist, who is a therapist, tells me to write. “You’ve put this off long enough, Harmony.” I don’t know – have I? There are still so many completely random tasks I’ve yet to consider doing. Maybe first I ought to sand down the frames of a pair of stained glass windows I bought at an estate sale last summer. I’ll start after that.

***

They tell me it is not my job to take away my child’s pain. Growth comes from overcoming difficulty, and if there isn’t difficulty, then there isn’t growth.

I dislike this tremendously.

I see other parents working to remove their child’s pain. Why can’t I do it, too? I want to rush ahead, clearing a path free from obstacles and difficulties, sweeping sticks and pebbles to the side so that each of my three children could walk barefoot if they so desired.

That is how I show my love: by doing. It suited me in early marriage and parenthood, when there were so many tasks to complete. I showed my love for these people all damn day and half of the time they didn’t even realize it, but I sure did work my ass off doing all of the things. And even though I was resentful as hell and rocketing towards a mental breakdown, I never felt like I was struggling to do nothing.

Doing nothing wasn’t even on my radar.

Over the past few years, mostly through working in therapy and in the rooms of recovery, I’ve learned that sometimes there is nothing to do. Like, DOING NOTHING is very surprisingly often the right thing to do. Talk about a mind fuck for an uptight control freak who overcompensates for what she lacks by doing. This is why I also hate doing recovery work, because this shit infuriates and confounds me.

Right now, I’m navigating a really difficult time in parenting where my job is to sit and quietly listen. There is no shouting across the house. There is no broadcasting “DO YOUR HOMEWORK!” on the Google Home Device. Shouting either falls on Asher’s deaf ears or stresses him out and he ends up in a ball on the floor. He needs me to walk to wherever he is, get down on his level, and ask him in a normal-to-quiet tone to brush his teeth. Then he might need me to say it again once he stands up, because by then he has forgotten what it was that I asked him to do (attention deficit disorder).

Then he will walk into the bathroom, begin counting flooring tiles, and forget again what he was supposed to be doing (obsessive compulsive disorder). By then I’ve usually gone back to the kitchen and it’s 45 minutes later before I find him, still in the bathroom counting, teeth un-brushed.

The deal with Asher is, he is who he is and I am the one who needs to adjust and figure out how to best reach him. He doesn’t respond to the things that work with his older brother, so it’s like re-learning how to parent a 10-year-old all over again. He requires a finesse that I don’t come by naturally, and sometimes, I have to sit on my hands to keep myself from JUST TAKING OVER AND DOING IT FOR HIM, MY GOD. Thankfully I married a man with finesse and patience, and he’s great at taking over when I hit a wall.

I often feel sorry for myself when I’m drowning in the midst of meeting my kids where they are, until something snaps me out of it and I realize how fucking lucky I am to get a front row seat to see these people grow into themselves.

Full stop.

Forcing myself to quietly sit next to my 5th grader while he picks a pencil apart instead of finishing the last few questions on his homework assignment is an exercise in self control I otherwise wouldn’t have. Digging deep and keeping my mouth shut when my kids make choices I know aren’t in their best interest is hard as fuck, but it’s the best thing I can do for them as their mother despite the level of discomfort it causes ME.

Motherhood, from beginning to end, is an exercise in growth. The kids are growing — anyone can see that. But so am I, in ways I didn’t even realize.

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The Biggest Sin.

My mother, who I had not talked to in several days, called me.

I was just starting dinner when the phone rang. She had surgery this week, and the last time I saw her, she was still in the recovery room. I was happy that she was calling; I wanted to find out how she was feeling.

I turned off the stove as I strained to hear her. She sounded weak — just tired, she assured me — and right on cue, my toddler poured a cup of water all over the floor while my back was turned. My mom was still talking, but I couldn’t hear a word: all three of my kids were running around in the widening pool of water as the tile grew more and more slippery.

“I know this probably isn’t a good time to call,” she said, likely because she could hear muffled sounds of distress as I rummaged for towels and herded my wet children out of the kitchen.

If we’re being honest, no time is a good time to call me.

“I have it under control,” I told her. “Just hang on a minute.”

That is when I saw my 23-month-old daughter get down on all fours and lap up puddles of water like a puppy.

This is an example of what my days have been like lately. As open as I am about many parts of my life, there are some things I don’t talk about at all. I think most people are like that. Being a woman is complicated, right? I’ll wait while you nod your head in agreement.

I have been stewing for awhile over how quickly women jump to tear each other apart, because quite frankly I am over it.

Judgy look.

We all bear an insanely heavy load; each one of us wade through life loaded down with stuff. It doesn’t matter how “together” or “perfect” a woman seems — good or bad, SHE’S GOT STUFF.

Yet, for reasons I am unable to fully comprehend, even though we are all doing the best we can, even though we are all struggling with our stuff, even though we are supposed to build each other up instead of tear each other down, even though ALL OF THIS, women still get shredded up over absolutely anything and it’s generally at the hand of other women.

I know because it happened to me recently. Want to know why?

Because I’m a good housekeeper.

Let me explain: I cope with the chaos of my life by following behind my family and cleaning up their mess (or asking them to clean up after themselves). Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s pointless, because the messes never cease. I don’t do it because it makes sense. I do it because if my house was a wreck to match my wreck of a life, then I would have a nervous breakdown.

Everyone who knows and loves me accepts this. They are all aboard the OCD train, because no one wants to see me lose my shit. Keeping order makes me feel like things aren’t so terrifying. I can’t stop someone I love from getting sick, but I CAN keep the bathroom from smelling like pee.

I can do that.

It makes me feel better.

Recently, a friend came to my house. Later on, she posted something on Facebook about how clean it is over here. She didn’t name me — she just said, in jest, that her friend who claimed to have a messy house in fact has an abnormally clean one. AND her kid’s beds were made. AND she answered the door in an apron. Triple sin.

My friend probably didn’t realize that every person in her friend list seemed to be sitting around on social media on a Saturday night with nothing better to do than to tear apart an unnamed woman for keeping a clean home. She did not intend for it to be a bash-fest at all — she was actually trying to poke fun at herself for having a messy home — but that’s what happened, because people suck. Women are criticized and judged for having a messy home, a clean home, for their parenting choices and their career choices, and for how they spend their time — which is no one else’s to spend.

We are blasted for being too fat, too thin, too vain, or for “letting ourselves go.” We are judged from the time we get up until the time we go to bed. There is never a time, ever, when everyone is happy with what I’m doing. My children, husband, mother, neighbors, and self are never all happy at the same time for a choice I make at any given time. Even when I do something like drink that third cup of coffee, I do so knowing that if my mother was there she would say “That’s not good for you.” My husband would say “That’s why you can’t sleep at night.”

But my kids don’t care if I do it. None of them will throw a fit … so it’s a win. I’m having that third cup.

Displeased.While I accept that this is how the world works, that you really and truly cannot make everyone happy, it is still wearing on the spirit. And even when you don’t know the people who are criticizing you, as was the case with the Facebook situation, it still hurts. I stood in my clean kitchen wearing my clean apron reading the comments from total strangers who don’t know me or my situation, and I swear … if I could have reached into my phone and bitch slapped some of them, I would have.

I have opinions. I am guilty of making snap judgments of others. There are things I totally disagree with, and things that make me uncomfortable.

I have stuff. You have stuff. We’re all struggling. So why can’t we cut each other some slack?

By far, the biggest sin is tearing another woman down.

The truth is, I’m not a good housekeeper. I have a stressful life and I cope with it by cleaning. I’m sure there is a name for my disorder, which you only know about because I took the time to tell you.

I recently wrote a letter to my daughter telling her that other women will try to tear her apart. I dread that day. In the meantime, at 35 years old, I had to look at myself in the mirror and command myself to SHAKE IT OFF BECAUSE I AM AWESOME AND I DO NOT HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY AWESOMENESS.

Now go forth and be awesome … and cut a bitch some slack.

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