Being Present.

A couple weeks ago, when I was still really sick and trying to juggle work and Owen’s 3 hour early release from school for parent-teacher conferences and errands and making sure we (and our house) was in some kind of shape for friends to visit us the following day.

When I’m stressed and tired, I’m snappish and yelly (yes, that’s a word. I just made it up) and grumpy and impatient. I feel almost claustrophobic in my tension, where all of my responsibilities crowd into my head and chest and are all talking and laughing in a loud voice, trying to get my attention all at once, and I often just want to run away to find wide open space.

But they’re great at tagging along wherever I go, and often if I DO escape and find a measure of space, it’s almost worse when I come back and they crowd right back into me again, like a bunch of annoying old relatives who don’t give a shit about much of anything except what they want.

So on this particular day, Owen and I were in the mudroom, preparing to get out and run errands.

(Something I will never understand, by the way: the physics of how a 50lb six-year-old can take up ALL OF THE SPACE on a bench in the mudroom, working to tie his shoes. Seriously, 6 feet of bench, and there is zero space for me to sit and tie my shoes. How does that even work? )

But since there’s no space for me on the bench, me and my responsibilities are stuck in a corner, trying to slip on my shoes and coat, and Owen is taking up a HUGE amount of space and energy, and he’s talking a mile a minute, and my To Dos are also talking and chattering, and I’m tired and sick and I just lay down on the couch under my heated blanket.

And then dog noses his way into the room, wagging and walking around and sticking his nose everywhere and crowding us both. Because we’re his pack and he loves us and he wants to go, too.

And since I can’t yell at the responsibilities which were making it hard to breathe, or Owen, who is exhausting in his own way, instead I yell at the dog, the poor dog, in frustration.

Just. Get OUT of here!

We are getting out of the car to head to the dry cleaner when Owen says this to me: I don’t like you as my mom sometimes. I like dad better. Because dad doesn’t yell the way you do.


He might not have used those exact words, but that’s what I heard.

I am a yeller. It’s just… well, me. And I am self-aware enough to know that I yell more when I feel there is a time crunch.

And I am in the Time Crunch Period of my life, where the responsibilities and To Dos crowd me out and there no space or time or energy to BREATHE, and things need to get done now or they quite literally won’t get done.

Well, that’s the way it FEELS, anyway.

And it’s SO hard to see or listen or hear when there’s a million things trying to get your attention.

But warring with this is the reminders of mortality: The sudden death of a relative of Jeff’s – one of the guys we thought would live forever. The small plane crash in Maryland that took the life of a mother and two young kids. The second anniversary of the day where 20 first graders went to school and didn’t come home.

I don’t want to live my life where I am be held prisoner to the responsibilities and To Dos.

Life is uncertain, and I DO need to figure out a way to find the space to live in the present. To BE present.

That’s what I really, really want for Christmas this year.

Stay tuned.

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6 Responses to Being Present.

  1. Delenn says:

    Some day we do have to meet. Again you have written something that hits very close to home for me. I am the disciplinarian, I am the organizer. I have a house with three cats, a turtle, a first grader, a special needs teenager in crisis, a just recently re-employed ADHD husband. My life is a constant juggle of everyone’s priorities but my own….and sometimes I push and yes, yell. I was not like this when I first got married. I was not like this after our son was born…I just fell into this because of daily life. And yes, I need to learn to BE in the moment. I have tried and have even been successful at it…but lately…I am reminded that I need to continue to strive for that.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours and I hope you have a restful and rejuvenating holiday!

  2. Mel says:

    That plane crash took place down the road from me. Maybe 5 miles or so? It still seems unbelievable. I can’t wrap my brain around it.

    This description rang so true to me: “like a bunch of annoying old relatives who don’t give a shit about much of anything except what they want.”

    You could tell O that you thought about his words and you’d like his help to become less yelly. Just as he needs your help to remember to do/not do things, adults sometimes need help, too. Maybe you can have a code word, a single word, that you say when you can feel yourself getting yelly, and then he can know that you’re about to lose your cool and he should help instead of hinder. The kids and I have a single code word for “I need silence immediately so I can think.” So I just have to say one word, calmly, to get the space I need. I don’t overuse it so they know to take it seriously when I say it.

  3. Turia says:

    I wish SO much that we lived close enough to hang out. I get everything you wrote. I’m not someone who yells, but I am terrible for getting short-tempered and grumpy and frustrated when all my TO-DOs start creeping up on me and E. is doing things slowly (but I want him to do them himself) and talking non-stop (because he never.stops.talking) and I think my head will explode if we can’t just get out the door.

    Q. knew the woman who died in the siege in Sydney (the barrister who had three kids). She was married to someone he went to school with. They sat at our table at another friend’s wedding in 2003.

    I want to be more present too, but I find it so very hard. I am good for a while but then everything just pushes in again.

    Your Christmas card came yesterday- thank you! I’m afraid the PhD defence ate all my intentions to do cards this year.

  4. Justine says:

    I was angry at I. the other day, and N. told me that it wasn’t nice to yell etc. … I asked her what I should do to get him to do what he was supposed to be doing, and, gesturing at her crying brother, said, brightly, “I know! How about give him a hug?”

    Smart cookie, she.

    But yes: we all need our own time outs. Or more accurately: time ins. May you find a path to yours …

  5. noemi says:

    I am also a yeller. I get yelly a lot. My daughter calls me on it and it hurts. I’m trying to think afterward about why I yelled so that I can learn from my mistakes. I try to laugh at those things that made me so mad before. Sometimes it works. Some of the time it doesn’t.

    I do try to hold myself accountable, in front of my daughter. I do think that helps mitigate some of the damage. One of her favorite phrases is, “Sometimes even mommies make mistakes.” (Also a repeated line in my favorite children’s book of all time.) I’m sure there is chance I’m passing my perfectionism on to her, but I do a lot of owning up to my missteps. I hope that counts for something.

    I guess I just wanted to say, I get it. I do it too.

  6. Bronwyn Joy says:

    If you find out how, tell us all!

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