We’re in the grocery store. I’m handing out buttery shortbread cookies from the bakery counter. Alex. Lila. Evaline. Ash… wait, what happened to Asher? I scan across the displays of breads and muffins, down to the green wall of produce, to the fruit carts, to the natural snacking wall. Asher, Asher, Asher.
My mind begins to try and focus, what was he even wearing today? If I had to describe him to someone at customer service, would I say, a tank top? A sweatshirt? Jeans or sweatpants? Or was it shorts? I honestly cannot conjure an image of him from ten minutes ago.
He’s in the bathroom, remember? Alex says with cookie crumbs falling from his lips, you said he could go.
And here he comes now, bouncing toward me and wiping bubbler water from his chin with a stroke of his forearm. Cookie please?
As relieved as I am to have him back along for the ride around the store (wearing a green t-shirt and shorts with untied boat shoes, mental note scribbled down) I’m beginning to honestly wonder how much more mental slippage I can navigate before something (or someone) actually does get lost.
I’m wondering how much of this loss is just the standard bite-sized chunks of mental capacity that motherhood gnaws away – coffee left in the microwave, forgetting clothes in the washer, missing a dentist appointment – and how much is my brain actually hitting a wall of senility that is more akin to a seventy-five year old than a (nearly) thirty-five year old.
Actually, come to think of it, most of the seventy-plus year old folks that I know, most are sharper than me on any given day.
I can hyper-focus at work. I can maneuver through a wedding day without struggle, seeing the moments, catching teeny-tiny details, reading emotions on faces, anticipating when a slow dance is about to become a romantic dip or dramatic twirl. It’s easy.
At home, I feel like a plate of spaghetti that someone dropped on the kitchen floor. I am a pile of noodles splattered in every direction, streaks of sauce like a Pollock painting. You might think I’m somehow inspired or artful or purposeful…but all I see is the mess I’ve made, am making, daily.
At work, I am patient. Newborn babies need feedings mid-session, diapers need changing, a five year old has zero interest in me or my camera, but wouldn’t an ice cream cone be nice, or maybe a trip down a slide? A wedding venue waits until the very last moment to bring me dinner and then mid-bite, comes to tell me that it’s time to cut the cake. I’m happy to grab my camera and run. I don’t even feel hungry, I feel energized.
At home, we’re back to practicing the art of not yelling. Which is to say, I am not always so patient. And my children are all, almost always, wait until the last minute people, they grab me with a sense of immediacy as though their very bodies are on fire and our house will explode if I do not move. Now. Because, apple juice. Or because, someone moved their stuff. Because, Moooooooom!
At work, I’m tired and I’m sore and I think of all of the wonderful things I am missing at home.
At home, I am tired and drained and I think of all of the wonderful hours of sleep I am not getting, might never get again.
What I want, is to not be one or the other, on or off. I want to find a place in between, where I stand steady, either here or there. I want to be in a place where my memory doesn’t feel like I’m slipping on ice and wondering if conversations I’m recalling actually happened, or if I imagined them, where I’m wondering if I took my vitamin yet today or not, if the dog has been fed, where my son is – five minutes after I gave him permission to go to the bathroom at the store.
I want to be here now. I want to remember the moments and the details of my own life, as clearly as I can see them happening in the lives of my clients.
But, (and this just occurred to me – reason #542 why blogging is my therapy), in my own life, I don’t have the luxury of distance. And maybe, just maybe, I need to give take some of the pressure off of myself to always be everything to everyone.
At work, I have freedom and space to sit back and observe. No one comes running to me when they need a tissue, no one hangs on my pant leg, begging for a snack or asking if they can go to the bathroom without my help. Of course, I’m going to see things more clearly when I’m allowed to do that- and only – that.
So, sure, my memories are going to be softer, the edges less defined. And, sure, I might need to describe my son’s entire wardrobe of possibilities to the staff at a store, should he ever get lost for real (or, perhaps just but an APB out on the cutest little brown haired kid with a husky voice that you’ve ever seen.) But, maybe it’s not because I’m a mess of splattered noodles, but rather, I’m just living a true, loud, fast, messy, confusing, hilarious, uncompromising and never dull life, head on.