Some sweeping, two loads of laundry, two baths, story time, and a couple of trips to the potty and I was ready to call it a day on my special day. So when my husband finally turned over my birthday card at approximately 9pm in what was truly one of the first quiet moments we had together that day or even that month actually, I did what any normal person would do: I sobbed hysterically and fell asleep. Okay, so it wasn’t the glamorous homemade card, streamers and levity kind of day that in my head I’d envisioned or at least watched on some sort of birthday themed TV show at some point in time. But sobbing? It seemed a bit extreme.
Honestly, I was just tired. Do you ever just feel that way? You’ve pushed and you’ve done and you’ve filled every moment of every day and night and the house is still dirty and you still haven’t exercised and your kid is still asking for a mom trade-in and you feel as though you’ve been doggy paddling for a month? I think that’s where I was. Which is ironic because just last month, I was writing to you all about the importance of keeping it real and embracing our respective day to day suckiness. So why for the past month had I become so obsessed with making the most (whoever’s most I think I’m trying to make) of every second, picking every apple, every family friendly photo op fall festival, every hayride, every holiday meal, trying so hard at everything and succeeding at nothing? I don’t even think it was some sort of rabid super mom compulsion, but rather this manic need to fulfill every other person around me’s needs and requests, a sad commentary on this really unfortunately little passive aggressive part of my psyche that is too obsessed with other people’s happiness, at the expense of my own.
Phil has been travelling almost every week this past month and that, coupled with near constant holidays, fall themed madness, and visits from our respective families which have been awesome but steady, have combined to make it that we have had almost zero time as a family, as a couple, as me. I felt right in the middle of nowhere. Which was right where Phil found me, doubled over his birthday card when he said these profound words: “You’re fine. You just need to be more selfish.” His words hit me like a pumpkin scented lead pipe to the head. In an effort to help everybody, serve everybody, fulfill every obligation, I had completely lost any of the joy in doing any of those things. And so rather than living my mantra of happy mama, happy babies, I’d unconsciously begun living a new mantra: angry subservient woman = miserable family. But the table was set, we made every swim and story and other class on time, homemade pie and kugel, wrinkled shirts, half-smiling children sitting in temple seats, entertaining – imploding. Everyone’s happy, right?
Not so much. In my effort to oblige every request, I started to drown in not so important obligations. So this year for my birthday I gave myself something very special: the power of no. It’s a word my children are intimately acquainted with and now it’s my turn. It’s okay if I don’t host, if we are late, if we are wrinkled, if we buy the kugel or skip the party or the class or whatever. Serving everyone, doing everything got us and me nowhere. Today I gave myself a totally selfish morning, the one I should’ve given myself two days ago. I dropped the kids off at school and closed my eyes to the endless tasks calling my name back home – the laundry, the dishes, the phone calls and emails I didn’t return. And I went to the mall by MYSELF. And I bought those long skinny boots that everyone has that make you look like you ride horses except I don’t. I ate cold kugel out of the pan because I could. I drove around town with the radio turned up really loud to that Carly Rae Jepson song and sang it at the top of my lungs (but with the windows up because I’m not totally ready to reveal my inner 12 year old to the rest of the world). And I watched some DVR’d Real Housewives. And when I went to pick up my kids a few hours later I was wearing something I expect they hadn’t seen in quite awhile: a smile.
Happy Birthday to me J