Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

I turned 35 this week. As it happened, my birthday coincided with Yom Kippur. If you aren’t familiar with Judaism, Yom Kippur is a fun little holiday where you go to synagogue and atone for all of your sins, literally beating your chest as you beg G-d for forgiveness. You also get to fast. It’s really one of those feel good holidays. So, after racing to get everyone up and dressed for synagogue and there on time to sit through some portion of a service that they didn’t really understand, I slogged home where I pored through my excessive apple stash from last week’s apple picking so that I could make homemade applesauce and apple kugel to break the fast later. By the time the family showed up, everyone had a migraine. We ate a large meal to signify the end of our fast and promptly felt sick after. There was a birthday cake which was sweet although strangely, we were unable to find any birthday candles. This is particularly odd because I seem to hoard this product, but am only able to unearth them if it is not someone’s birthday. So, we stuck a tea light in the middle of my cake, sung happy birthday and called it a day.

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

4 comments:

  1. Jenn, this is a great post. Love it. All moms need to take some time to be selfish! On Friday when I dropped of fthe kids at school I came home and ate warm chocolate chip pie for breakfast while catching up on the DVR and it was marvelous!

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    1. So glad you could relate! Thanks for taking the time to read :)

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  2. Sounds like you have a great attitude. Good for you. And it's not selfish to take care of yourself. If you don't, you cannot take care of others.

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    1. I think the way my sister likes to say it is, similar to the airline safety card, make sure you have your oxygen mask on first before assisting others... indeed! Thanks for stopping by!

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