Was it less than a week ago I penned those dreamy, picture-perfect words, promising myself a summer of breathing room?
The long weekend kicked off the summer, and there were bits of it all; “adventure” as I swam across the river for the first time, even after 7 summers swimming in that channel. Bits of “showing up” as I resisted the urge to hide in our space and went and spoke to family I rarely see. “Rest” in giving permission to disappear for hours at a time, to read, go for walks, or just be alone. Staying “healthy” as I went for my runs.
But it all becomes too much, and already I long for the safe routine I had become accustomed to; I want to go home. I want my “recovery Mondays” back (what I called Mondays, when the kids went back to school, my husband went back to work, and I cleared my to-do list down to “recover” and didn’t allow myself any chores until the work of self-care was tended to).
Only, there are no more recovery Mondays. This is my new normal. I need to learn how to recover without 6.5 hours of alone time. I need to recover while the kids are in bed and I’m house-bound with them. I need to recover in the midst of family gatherings, in the middle of road trips, in the thick of beach days, laundry days and sick days.
It’s too much, and in the middle of the busy restaurant, I’m done. I visit the bathroom four times in an hour. Do you know what it’s like to pay attention to your soul in a bathroom stall?
What does it look like to “breathe grace” when the only options are to flee or survive? When it’s not healthy, restful, adventurous and now that you’ve shown up you just want to go home? When all your good intentions aren’t enough, and you’re still falling apart?
I ate. There’s good in that – anyone with small children will tell you there’s not a lot that a snack and a nap can’t fix, and I think they’re underrated in adults as well.
But it also causes other alarm bells; II am beginning to recognize the warning signs of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Better than drugs, I suppose, but I’ve gained significant weight over this burnout journey, and I recognize that I’m eating to take the edge off my anxiety. Food gives me energy surges to get past the depletion I feel and sleep helps me avoid the tension that accumulates. I’m to the point where I have other options to deal with both, and the barest hint of reserves to know I don’t have to choose food and sleep as medicines anymore.
Only… it’s not easy.
To attend to the tension, when the only quiet place is a bathroom stall.
To go for a run when you’re house-bound.
To find rest when children’s inquisitive energy surrounds you.
One step at a time, that’s how you do it.
One small thing. I give myself grace for the food I ate and make a note – a physical note because I don’t trust my memory – to make a plan for these moments at a time when I have more capacity. This will happen again: this feeling of being overwhelmed and stuck. Next time instead of pizza and icecream, I could try…
One small thing. I make it home. The kids make it to bed – without their normal bedtime story and silly snuggles, but they too know it’s been a full weekend and complaints are minimal as they settle in and fall asleep.
One small thing. I get out of bed to journal. I will sleep, and soon, but not first. One small thing.
And these one small things add up, and soon I see daylight ahead. I will run tomorrow morning. I will ask my husband to stick around tomorrow evening and tell him what happened to me in that restaurant. I will have a bathroom-stall emergency plan that is less of an escape and more of a reset. I will go back to my doctor, and this time take her advice; the advice she promised would make a huge difference in my mental health but seemed too hard to consider at the time. It’s not easier now, but I always knew I couldn’t avoid it, and finding myself here not one day into this “new normal” has made me face that I need to go a little harder. I don’t want to; this isn’t the grace-filled road I’d been enjoying. It’s a hard one of sacrifice and discipline and all-or-nothing mentality. But it’s time.