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New Year: Same Jerk

It’s a week after New Year’s Day, which means most of us have already broken our resolutions. I can only hope we score some points for being consistent in breaking our resolutions. Consistency is important too, folks.

I’m going to be honest with you: I’ve been struggling these past few months. One of my ailments is that I suffer from a chronic case of not-enoughitis. I have to-do lists, closets to clean out, an old house that constantly needs repair, writing deadlines to meet, groceries to haul, children to bathe and feed. But I have a home, a bestie that I’m married to, and four thriving kids. I even have a washing machine. So what I’m saying is that I—an able-bodied, healthy young person with four beautiful children and a husband that loves me—am a jerk. A jerk with seven pounds to lose.

Here I am thinking there’s something missing, that something is owed to me.

Oh God, help me. Save me from myself. Maybe I really am a jerk.

This past summer, I was feeling similarly to what I feel now. I was in the midst of summer crisis (aka these kids make too much mess and need too many things and are always breathing loudly in my ear) and I got out of the house for the afternoon. I thought a cup of coffee outdoors sounded like a good solution to my crisis. As I headed to the Colectivo on Prospect, a man approached me to ask me for a couple dollars. Oh, great. Someone else needs something from me.  I told the guy that I didn’t have any cash, which was true, and found a nice spot to sip a coffee.

When I paid for my latte, I noticed that I did have a couple bills in my wallet and felt bad. Not bad enough to find that guy, but bad enough to sit in a beautiful cafe and drink my perfect latte and think about feeling bad. I suppose I’d call this passively bad.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to feel bad for long because the guy came around an hour later asking for money. Which was great for me, because:
a.) I didn’t have to feel bad anymore
b.) I didn’t have to get out of my chair
c.) I could replace my passive bad feeling with a resounding sense of self-approval.

This was working out perfectly.

I proudly placed the bills in his soiled hat and I think I expected a smile, or a thank you, or a flash mob to appear and raise me high on their shoulders and proclaim me and my good deeds to the east side of Milwaukee.

Alas, no flash mob appeared. Instead, the guy looked in his hat and asked me if I that was all I had.

I was ticked. I felt like grabbing my money back from his grubby hat and sending him away with nothing.

I was speechless as he went on his way. I sat there fuming. What nerve. What a jerk.

I decided to let it go. I was not going to let this incident ruin my afternoon off. I got out my notebook and started writing so that I could sort out what to do about my summer crisis. I decided my best plan of action was to buy a two bedroom condo with white walls, for the sake of simplicity. Obviously, the condo would have a view of the lake. Unlike my house, this condo will not need repair or maintenance. Before moving in, I would throw away all of my children’s toys that weren’t made of raw, unpainted wood and all their stupid unmatched socks. My imaginary condo daughters will learn to knit, make bread, do jigsaw puzzles, study the solar system and do other quiet activities. My condo daughters will wear ivory linen gowns in our huge new kitchen with pristine floors and make chocolate chip cookies and the girls will adorably smear a charming amount of flour onto each other’s noses while we all laugh and enjoy each other’s company.  Maybe I’d even start running and preserving jams. We would be like Steve Jobs and wear the same uniform everyday to keep the mornings simple and streamlined. Besides, my girls would look adorable in black turtlenecks. We would be Urban Amish.

The only obstacles, it seemed, was selling our home and all of our possessions, my actual children, and my personality (I would last approximately 40 seconds in an all white home). Also standing in the way was not being able to afford a condo with a large pristine kitchen with a view of the lake. So there’s a couple barriers.

Something had to give, so I decided that I would keep my home, children and accept the untidy aspects of my personality but searched online for something that would cure my not-enoughitis. I searched Target and Amazon to see if a solution would catch my eye. Hmm, maybe it’s in their spring collection. I settled on buying a steam mop. Surely this would bring me the peace I have been lacking.

I kept writing until something very unpleasant dawned on me. Perhaps, dear reader, you already saw this coming, but I realized that I am the man with the soiled hat. I’m the one out asking for more and once I receive it, it’s not enough.

Sometimes, I really despise insight.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could end this tale with some cherry-on-top moment of clarity when I realize that my life is not perfect, but it’s enough? Well I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am several months down the road from my realization and I am still a jerk. I see it clearly but don’t know how to get out from under it.

Perhaps that is what I want to learn this year: how to stay away from the same pitfalls I’ve fallen into in the past. At least I can see them coming now.

And to my girls, if you ever read this someday, just know that I am aware of you and your needs. I want to fulfill them and I want to love you all well, but parenting is really hard. I want you to have me and I want to have you, just as you are. You make me smile, make me laugh, keep me connected to God and to community. I want to do well for you. I want you to flourish. All of us—our family & community. I want us to make it, together. I want family dinners when you’re all grown when we sit around the table and laugh about our memories together and feel deeply connected to each other. We’re in this life thing together and I am so thrilled to be your mama. You give me joy and contentment. Thank you, daughters. Just clean up your mess, ok?

But about that steam mop: Amazon delivered it to my home and, like any reasonable steam mop, it sensed the crushing weight of expectation and broke immediately.


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