“Oh, my” I thought. “I should have seen this coming!”
Ready to sit down at the dinner table, I thought I could stuff the frustration and emotion I was feeling. The now I was in was difficult to endure, but I knew that if I just kept smiling, I’d get through it. After all, that’s what Moms do.
We just do the next thing.
But that’s not what happened.
As I look back at the evening I have to laugh at myself. Did I really think that I was supermom? Did I think I could override my humanness and keep going?
Three weeks prior to that evening had been an absolute whirlwind. First we did the Disney thing.
You know–the adventure but not necessarily a vacation.
It was a getaway for my husband and me with our college age son before his upcoming surgery. We knew that it would be his last hurrah for quite some time so we let him do most of the planning.
Two days to travel, two days at the beach, and four days at Disney–just to “get away“.
Did I say we went to Disney?
Let me rephrase that. We conquered Disney at a breakneck pace, because our son wanted to see it all–Magic Kingdom when it opened, lunch at Epcot, evening at Hollywood Studios–in one day. Then repeat for two more days.
“I’ll make it”, I told myself as I collapsed in bed each evening. “I’ll have time to rest after Michael’s surgery.”
Four days after the Florida gig, after having done mounds of laundry, going through eight days worth of mail, restocking the fridge, and cleaning the house, I was driving out of state with my son for the long awaited surgery. I could sense the angst in both of us as we drove in silence, each caught up in our own thoughts. But I knew we were both strong enough to endure. Even though I was tired, I knew I could rest when I got home.
What was supposed to be an outpatient surgery ended up with an overnight stay and me attempting to sleep on a couch that was harder than a rock. Between the couch, the lights in the hospital halls, and the beep of the monitors, it made for a very long night.
By afternoon the next day, we were on the road heading home. Another long grueling drive in rush hour traffic.
I knew I was exhausted. But I could rest when we got home. Right?
We’d been home for four days that evening at the dinner table when I was feeling the frustration and emotion of the moment I spoke of earlier. I had yet to sleep through the night since the surgery. Dispensing meds, fluffing pillows, getting water, was only a small slice of my new routine. Being with a college age kid who couldn’t put on his socks or cut his food because his right arm was braced for no movement meant that I had to be available around the clock.
That particular evening I had planned a special meal. I’d told my son earlier what we were having for dinner and he had hesitated. “Mom,” he warned. “I’m not sure my stomach will be up for that. Would you mind just throwing a chicken breast on the grill?”
But in my sleep-deprived supermom, “oh, he’ll like it when he sees it” thinking, I neglected to plan for the chicken breast on the grill.
That’s when it happened.
Food was hot with everything on the table. I couldn’t wait to enjoy our special treat after doing hospital food a few days earlier.
“Mom, did you make me a chicken breast?”
A realization that he had asked well in advance for a chicken breast.
And I suddenly became a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. “I want a hot meal! I’ve been waiting on you hand and foot. You think I’m going to fix you a chicken breast when we have food on the table?”
And I picked up my plate of food, pulled open the back door, and turning to face him continued my rant. “I just want to be alone and enjoy a hot meal without thinking about what you need” spilled out of my mouth as I slammed the back door.
As I sat on the back patio with taste bud pleasure, I felt a little sad at my outburst yet a little joy-filled at the silence and opportunity to indulge myself. I knew I needed to apologize and regroup. But I was enjoying not having to cut up two pieces of meat and not having to help my son get everything situated at the dinner table with pillow in the right place, glass on the left for him to manage, or helping him get small pieces on his fork as he attempted to do everything with his left hand.
That’s when the light bulb came on.
As I sat there enjoying my silence and food, I realized that in the last month I had put everyone else’s needs above my own.
I wasn’t looking out for me.
I didn’t even have me on my radar screen.
I hadn’t even seen the hissy-fit, toddler moment, melt-down coming.
Then another A-ha! struck me.
That’s what we do as women.
We endure. We think we have to do it all. We take on the stress of the people around us and hold it tight until we reach a place where we throw a toddler tantrum.
We crash and burn. We lash out at others. We become depressed. We feel overwhelmed. Or we become ill.
As I sat on the back patio finishing my meal, I did a little soul searching. After all–I did need to go back in to apologize.
- What do I enjoy?
- What can I do to keep my sanity during what will most likely be three months of extreme servanthood?
- How do I take care of me?
- How do I run with perseverance the race marked out for me (Hebrews 12:1)?
- What do I need?
- What do I need from others?
With empty plate in hand, I returned to the kitchen. My husband had already graciously fixed my son a grilled chicken breast.
And the apology spilled out to my husband and son. “I’m sorry for being so nasty at the dinner table. I shouldn’t have said the things I said. I don’t mind helping you, Michael. Please forgive me.” I paused waiting for my son’s acknowledgement of my sincerity.
I continued, “What I realized from my little temper tantrum is that I haven’t had any time to myself for over a month. We’ve been on a breakneck pace and I’m exhausted. I forget that I don’t have to always be the one to do everything. Starting now, I’m giving myself permission to ask both of you for the things I need–whether it be help with dishes, other things around the house, or just alone time. Michael, I know your job is to rest right now. I’ll try to be available but know that I’m going to start incorporating me time in my day.”
As my days of servanthood have continued over the last several weeks, I’m learning what I need even more. I’ve given myself permission to read a novel. I’ve asked friends to reserve an evening to get me out of the house. And I’ve asked my husband to do more when he isn’t traveling. I’ve even given myself permission to do less ministry work.
So what about you?
Who or what might send you over the edge?
Are you burning the candle at both ends trying to meet everyone’s needs?
Are you dealing with a difficult person that you need a break from so you can persevere over the long haul?
Are you taking the time to fill your energy bucket with things that soothe your soul?
Are you spending enough alone time in the Word?
Dare you to take inventory while things are going well–before you crash and burn. Give yourself permission to take care of you.
“Let go…and let God”,