Tonight, for no good reason, is one of those nights when I feel like I am on the verge of losing it. As is usual on these types of occasions, it wasn’t one specific incident that tipped the scales, but a delicate concoction of increasingly annoying circumstances: At school today, an unproductive planning period that resulted in an even larger pile of papers cluttering my desk; a school bag stuffed with work that would follow me home; forty-five minutes of watching my eldest daughter be “that kid” at her swim lesson and running the risk of being labeled a helicopter parent if I intervened; the same child’s declaration, “I don’t like you and I don’t love you” because I wouldn’t allow her to play games on my phone as we drove home; a crappy salad for dinner because I was attempting to be healthy, but really wanted, like, a double bacon cheeseburger smothered in chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream; two crying children in the bath (one, because her sister was repeatedly kicking her, the other because she wanted her sister out of the bathtub); and then, on top of everything else, the ridiculous chore of picking up our house for the freaking cleaning lady.
I was completely aware, throughout the day, of my elevating stress level. I could feel my blood pressure rising, my ability to keep my cool steadily decreasing. I yelled at my nine-month old for sticking her hands in the toilet while we waited for the bath to fill. I snapped at my husband when he asked if I wanted him to work on cleaning or if he should try to rock the baby to sleep. I told myself, as calmly as possible, that nobody benefits from my bad mood. But, as many of you probably know, cold, hard reason isn’t terribly effective when you’re legitimately losing it.
“It”: a tiny pronoun that encompasses so much. My mind, for one. My body. My ability to carry on a phone conversation that requires actual listening. A lot of my friendships, probably because I can no longer carry on a phone conversation that requires actual listening. Relaxing dinners out. Movies more than ninety minutes long. Spontaneity. Uninterrupted quality time with my husband.
The list goes on. Forget about losing it. “It” is long gone.
When I was nineteen, I got my tonsils removed. Before the surgery, my mom and I sat down with my doctor and he read out a questionnaire that was meant to determine how I would deal with the stress of the procedure. I remember laughing as we described my most common response to stress. When I was in high school, my mom would frequently wake up to the smell of brownies or muffins and come downstairs to find out what was wrong. Apparently this was enough for the doctor to believe that I wouldn’t lose it; with the help of baked goods, I could cope.
Eleven years later, I have other tools at my disposal. An episode of The Mindy Project. A glass of Pinot Noir. A Pandora station called “Indie Rock Dance Party”. Supportive work friends. Yoga. A husband who really, really, wants to make my life easier.
I love my children with every tiny atom of my being. Their ridiculously cute faces grin at me from the desktop of my school computer. I constantly catch myself telling stories about them that no other human being could possibly care about. I know that some of this craziness and chaos will end when they grow up, but I don’t want them to grow up.
You all know where this is going. You know that regret isn’t a part of my vocabulary. I’ve gained more than I’ve lost. My life is bigger, more fulfilling, better in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t stop me from missing some of what I’ve lost.
As a writer I long for closure, a clean and clear-cut way to wrap up. Tonight, I think, it’s not going to happen. Parenthood is what it is. It isn’t clear and it sure as hell isn’t clear-cut, and the majority of the time it makes me feel like a genuine psycho.