Monday, May 18, 2015

Service Glasses

The kids were all down for a nap, or at least quiet. I wandered into the study and flipped open my laptop. Tired and bored I pulled up something mindless and funny on YouTube. After far to short of a time the girls started quarreling over something stupid. I sighed and paused my video. I took care of the argument with some warning about punishments I would never delve out, probably torture on the rack or something along those lines. They obviously didn't believe me, but realizing that mama was feeling a little testy they complied and there was peace once more.
I dragged myself back to the computer and resumed watching, the boredom quickly turning to frustration and anxiety. I began to mentally berate myself, for the things that I wasn't getting done, for the mound of clothes in the laundry room, for the scary state of the dishes. Tears began forming in my eyes as I thought about doing all those things all day every day for the next twenty years or so. I turned off the now blurry video and searched for a tissue to wipe my now streaming eyes and nose. 

I called up my mother. I always seem to feel better after talking with her. She wasn't as sympathetic as I wanted, but enough. "You need to do something outside yourself. Make someone a plate of cookies, or stick some sweet little love notes in your husbands clothes for his trip this weekend." 
I kept back the words that rushed immediately to my lips. "I don't want to go do something for someone else right now, I do stuff for other people all day every day." The words sounded melodramatic, even in my own head, and besides I knew that they weren't completely true (who was that You Tube video playing for anyway?).

I got off the phone dissatisfied with my mother's advice. I tried turning back to my video now that I was calmer, but my unhappiness increased as I could only distract myself for a moment before the negative feelings came rushing in between videos. Reading a book wasn't an answer either as the thought kept running through my head "As soon as you finish this your going to feel miserable all over again." I shut the book, harder than necessary and did my best to set it down gently. 

My mom's words kept coming back into my head. I finally gave in and started thinking about what I can do. On one side my neighbors are diabetics, so a plate of cookies for them seemed a little insensitive. I don't really know any of my other neighbors yet, so I didn't know whether or not cookies from a neighbor would be a welcome thing for them. The local leader of my church lives a few houses down so I started considering what I might bake to take over there, but to my chagrin I didn't really have ingredients to bake anything. I slammed the cupboard door in frustration. I'd have to clean the kitchen to bake anyway. 

The rest of the day passed in a haze. I know that I interacted with my children, got the baby up from his nap, unwillingly did a few dishes, made lunch and put something in the crock pot for dinner. After my husband got home I went to a book club. The adult conversation was refreshing, but over too soon. I dragged my unwilling feet up the porch to my front door after my ride dropped me off. When I got in the house he was there playing a video game instead of packing. My anger flared up and I bit my tongue to keep back the vicious and poisonous words I knew would do nothing but cause a fight. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that he needs breaks sometimes too. I gently reminded him that he needed to pack and began helping him gather his things.  
Observing the dozen or so pockets he has on his uniform I remembered my mom's suggestion. When he went out to the car for something I quickly went into the study and wrote a bunch of little notes. I sneaked back into the bedroom with them in my hand. Striking up a meaningless conversation about something I knew I could get him talking about, I stealthily placed notes in every single pocket of every item that I placed in his bag.  A smug grin of satisfaction spread across my face as  I closed my eyes to sleep. 
The good feeling lasted me throughout the weekend. I kept imagining him finding the notes, and laughing about it or smiling at them. It made it easier to get the dishes done, and to work on the laundry. I could see his smiling face in my head when he saw how clean the house had gotten in his absence. Even my interactions with people at church were more satisfying. Just a handful of silly little love notes seemed to make all the difference. 
I'm not writing this to discourage hard working, Occasionally burnt-out mother's like me from taking time for themselves. I know that there are lots of times when "me-time" is just what the doctor ordered. I'm writing this so that I will remember a pretty decent answer for those days when I am tired and cranky, and no end of my misery is in sight. First even at almost twenty-eight there are times when listening to my mother is the best thing I could possibly do. Second making the things you have to do about serving someone else is a great way to make tasks easier. Third, doing something extra for someone else can brighten a lot more than just your day. 

As I have been keeping those things in mind today I have felt like I am looking through a pair of service glasses. Things I have to do just look different. I have found more patience with my kids, and more desire to be around them and to play with them. Comforting the four year old over invisible owies has been turned into an extra chance to cuddle instead of a chore. Pulling apart a toy to get at another one inside it has turned into an adventure instead of a bother. Teaching my children to work and to play is a greater joy today. Serving my family may not always be the thing I need to pull me out of a slump, but right now, today, and probably most of the time it's a great place to start. 

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