They are all benign. We are all fine, but disgruntled. Frustrated. Worn thin.
My initial coping strategy—to keep my head down and push through it—worked for a while. It worked when I thought it would all be wrapped up within a couple weeks. But when the contractor’s schedule started slipping, problems compounded, additional expenses stacked high, when our “tough weeks” stretched into “tough months,” my resolve started to wobble. Daniel and I couldn’t see each other through the frustration of just one more thing going wrong. Small annoyances would set either of us off—not at each other, not yet—but in each other’s general direction. “Can anything just be easy?” One of us might have (dramatically) said, when faced with another unexpected setback.
When I keep my head down, things get done, yes. But other things get missed. Things like opportunities to learn, moments of rest with my children, marveling over my son discovering so much so quickly, friends in the fringes, trying to lend a sympathetic ear—and, most of all—joy and gratitude. If, as we always say, “comparison is the thief of joy,” that must not only refer to comparison to what others have, but also comparison to how I think things should be going. We’ve been comparing our circumstances lately, not to those of others around us, but to those we think we’re entitled to. It’s been useless at best and potentially dangerous at worst.
On the phone with my dad, a month into this stretch, I said, “I’m just waiting for things to get back to normal,” which he met with a hearty laugh.
“Oh, honey,” he said, “there is no normal.” I flushed with annoyance.
"Sure there is," I argued. "It’s usually more settled than this."
He paused at the door. “Don’t worry about all this,” he said, gesturing and struggling to find the words. “It’s just…life. All of it. And it’s a really good life.”
My cheeks stung like he had slapped me in the face. Of course he was right. I watched him walk through the fog back to his house, where everything is tidy and quiet, where he would be alone—all things I think I long for—while he wishes to God it were not so.
How dare I complain about this beautiful, messy, awkward, exhausting, frustrating, exhilarating life I’ve been given? How dare I be frustrated with these gorgeous, complicated, imperfect people I get to walk alongside?
So what’s the better strategy? I want to make space for friends and phone calls, coffee dates and playing in the park and the kind of steady joy that hovers somewhere above the noise. I’ve been trying to remember the practices that usually feel restorative to me: reading, writing, lighting candles and drinking hot tea, music, prayer, yoga, cooking, eating well and serving others.
I’m starting unsteadily; it’s like active recovery. Weary from this stretch of difficulty, I’m going slow, trying to get my heart going again. I’m cooking for new moms and reaching out. I’m singing at a funeral with a lump in my throat. I’m hosting a big party before my house is ready. I’m choosing to show up even when I’d rather not. I’m letting myself feel the sting of a gracious slap in the face.
This is just life, all of it. And it’s a really good life. Don’t miss it.