Because the Mountain Will Always be There

Saoirse was home sick from school today, which meant no basketball practice for her tonight. David was off to Connecticut for work for a couple of days, so I held court at home, getting water and making eggs-in-a-nest and kissing warm foreheads. I snuck in some writing, but today, I did a lot of…sitting. And it was okay.We picked up Quinlan from school later this afternoon, and the ride home along the cold, wet streets was calm. Even Cian was quiet, for the most part, and Quinlan and Saoirse were tucked into the books they keep in the car. Back home, the simplicity continued: homework was out of the way early and kid pajamas were on by four. By 4:30 I’d abandoned plans to cook a chicken soup and placed an order for Panera delivery (one upside to living within walking distance to allllll of the chains). By 5:30, the kids had eaten, dinner had been cleaned up, and we were all under blankets in the living room, with a fire roaring and a candle lit and Ella Enchanted playing on the TV. Like Quinlan said, it was easy to forget it was a school night.

It was the absolute most perfect afternoon. We needed this today. We needed time to slow down. We needed, frankly, time to stop. We’ve been hurtling along, and lately we haven’t had much of a chance to figure out why we’re in such a hurry.

What I noticed, though, tonight, was a change in me. In my almost 10 years of parenting, I’ve never been able to slow down without feeling the low drumming of anxiety coursing through me–the chores not being done, the to-do list not being checked off. I feel that if I’m not on top of everything, it will all shift out from under me. But do you want to know the truth? It does all shift. Of course it does. I am not, nor ever will be, on top of everything: my to-do list has a backlog. The house gets–and stays–messy even when we’re trying our hardest. Paperwork still piles up, dirty laundry still makes its way to the kids’ floors and bathrooms and hardly ever the hampers. The writing–the writing–is always, always there, waiting for me to pick up pen and paper again and get back to it. It’s never finished.There’s always a mountain to climb.

But for the first time, this week, I’ve just stood at the base of it and said, okay. The mountain will still be there tomorrow. And I went about my day with these children of mine, mindful of its presence, but not worried by it.

That has never happened before with my honest acceptance.My kids are so tall now. The girls’ hair is growing long, which makes both of them ridiculously happy. When they curl up on the couch, their limbs go everywhere, spilling out over the cushions like spaghetti noodles falling out of the bowl. Quinlan talked my ear off today: asking about romance, asking about knitting, telling me about braiding and her friend Natalie’s cartwheels. Quinlan is always overshadowed by Saoirse’s first-born dominance and Cian’s, well, four-year-oldness. Meanwhile, she’s pulling in perfect test scores and building friendships and reading everything in sight. I heard her today. Without the drumming.

My kitchen island is covered with papers and catalogs and school worksheets right now. I still have dishes I have to put into the dishwasher–it’s 9:08 p.m.–and I need to do all the nighttime chores that David usually takes on without complaint (looking at you, taking out the dog in 38-degree temperatures). The house is not exactly Visitor Ready, which is how we try to leave it at night. I look at my schedule for tomorrow, and it’s… a lot. And I’m forging ahead with a new approach to Book 3, which is exciting and time-consuming and, as always, pulls me away from the regular rhythm of “normal” life. 

But I type that without the usual panic. I don’t know why it’s so. But we took a break today. It was a good break. The mountain is still there and I’m standing at the base of it, but it doesn’t seem to scare me at this moment.

It’s a good feeling. And I’m rested and willing to get back to climbing it tomorrow. Which, I suppose, is progress after all.