Friday, October 26, 2012

What to Do When You Lose Sight of Yourself

If the calender depicted this past week as a child's see-saw, there would be a five hundred pound feed sack sitting immovable at the far end.  High up on Monday, I would be hanging on for dear life as my body slipped slowly down the board to that box marked "Saturday."

The phrase "It's all downhill from here" would apply, but not in a good way.  I can almost feel myself going downhill towards insanity, becoming that someone I don't want to be anymore.

With all three of my children's birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all falling during the last three months of the year, I find myself Spring Cleaning in the fall when rooms full of people start trickling into my house.

Sure, I clean, on a daily basis, as every woman must.  But, getting my house ready for family and friends to come over for an official visit brings out the absolute worst in me.  

I wonder WHO ingrained in us this obsessive burden, this crazy need to make all things appear perfect for company?

In other countries, there may be a hut and a dirt floor, which is brushed out each morning, and that's it.  There is no fretting over the dirt that swirls through the sheet in the doorway, just thanks for a roof overhead and food in the belly.

I know this and have intentionally forced myself over the past year to give those "come as you are" invites of the moment.  I have worked to grow comfortable with opening my not-your-Southern-Living house.  If there is a thick layer of dust quilting the television, folded laundry still waiting to be tucked away, a labyrinth of books at your feet, or water colored paintings wallpapering the kitchen counters, the clutter is almost excusable.

But come October, I feel the pressure.  My vision shifts to finally see the red clay hand prints on every light switch and door jamb, the gray sheen on those high shelves I hardly ever glance at, the small toys not quite invisible under the La-Z-boys. 

This normal mother who cultivates a quasi-chaotic haven for creativity suddenly develops unreasonable expectations.  Insanity sets in with the belief that this house can be whipped into streamlined perfection for just one week.

I snap at children for Lego projects left in the kitchen.  I snap at husband for not doing something to help. I snap at myself for not getting it all done faster, better, earlier.

Can't they see the dust on that chandelier? those fan blades? The tarnished finger streaks around the stainless steel canisters in the kitchen? the toothpaste on the bathroom mirror that no one but mommy can scrub off?

What is wrong with me!?  Where is the woman who learned love and hospitality were more important than perfection?

It's sad how quickly I can lose sight of her. 

Last night, I left the vacuum cleaner, floor polish, and laundry hamper to drive into the city and teach ESL to a small group six.  Five smiling men in ironed button-down shirts worked to learn their third language.

Sudan. Libya. Eritrea. Ethiopia.

A hair dresser.  A mechanic.

All five less than a week into their new life as refugees in America.

At least for a few hours, I escaped back to reality where there is no concern about dust, about what the new boyfriend in the family might think of my home, about whether I'll succeed with my fondant/butter cream/gum paste cakes for the twins.

This reality is one where five kind, intelligent men have no jobs, where before the end of the year, they will be on their own without a shred of government support.  These men's needs were simple--shampoo, laundry soap, and dish washing liquid.

If I were dishonest, I'd end here with something profound about my chiropractor God giving me a major adjustment so that suddenly, my priorities were realigned.

But that's not quite the truth.

Instead, I drove back home with two worlds trying to coexist inside my head--the one where I'm not the psychotic mother and wife obsessed by an unrealistic image of the perfect setting for people to gather together...and the other where I know deep down that stuff doesn't matter.

I don't have it all together.  All I can do is pray for the Helper to give me grace to make complete what is not, to focus on what I already know to be true, and to ask forgiveness along the way when I slip into that other person more concerned with the things of this world than with the hearts and souls of those around me.


  1. The fact that you stopped to pen this is a good sign :) You're not alone living this paradox! Guess I've come to look at it as a stage of motherhood...much like the stages our kids go through that perplex us for what seems to be an eternity and then it takes awhile before we realize that stage has passed. Striving to be prayerfully in the right mind set while attending to (sometimes) superficial needs yet not neglecting the important aspects/relationships of life.

  2. I love your honesty, sister. Seeing ourselves through both lenses is a healthy step to recovery, I think :)

  3. Through your honesty He pours love, and we shout thank you!

  4. Thanks ladies. I left the dust on the fan blades and the upstairs unvacuumed. And we still had a happy party.