Thursday, March 01, 2007

Round and round she goes

Nicolaes Maes, Woman Spinning

She is spinning. From the looks of it, she has been spinning for a long time. Old, bent, wrinkled, losing her eyesight, she deftly sends the yarn into the spindle, creating one long continuous thread – the thread of her life. As long as she spins, the thread cannot be cut. As long as she spins – pulling raw fiber from the distaff, turning the wheel, twisting the thread – her life has meaning. She is diligent. She is industrious. She is not useless.

I am also spinning. And I mean that in many ways except the most literal one.

I am spinning my wheels
I have lost all traction. I race from one appointment to the next, always late, out of breath, unprepared, overwhelmed. And yet at the end of the day I think “have I accomplished anything today?”

I am in a tailspin
My life seems to be caught in a steep spiral. I’m not sure when the descent began. Was it when I started spending so much time on my blog? Was it when I broke my foot? Was it when the fourth baby arrived? Was it before then? All I know is that somewhere along the line, I started letting a few things slide and some other things pile up and some more things go undone. The next thing I know, jars are sticking to the shelf in the fridge because I just can’t get around to wiping up the chocolate syrup that spilled in there 5 months ago. I don’t respond to emails. I find myself “wingin’ it” through lectures I haven’t had time to thoroughly prepare. I’m sitting last night at parent-teacher conference with my son and I notice that his fingernails haven’t been trimmed for so long they qualify as lethal weapons. Dirty ones. And worst of all, I’ve become one of those people (you’re going to hate me now and never visit my blog again) who say they will do something and then don’t do it. I’ve just lost control. It’s like one of those really bad Airplane! movies where the pilot has died and the turbulence is terrible and then lightening strikes the plane and the air-headed stewardess has to land the crippled craft. That’s me. Not the stewardess but the plane. Mayday, mayday, I’m going down fast and my rudder is in flames. (You know you’ve taken a metaphor too far when you’ve grown a rudder).

Watch me spin a hundred plates at once
I started writing down a list of the plates I have in the air – the myriad things I have to keep track of on a daily basis (kids, kids’ school, kids’ food intake, kids’ sleeping habits, kids’ extracurriculars, self, self’s diet, self’s job, self’s church responsibilities….) I gave up when I got severe writer’s cramp after the third page.

I’m caught in the spin cycle
Sisyphus and I are old pals. He pushes his rock up the hill and I carry my laundry basket. Together we share the fate of the futile laborer. The clothes never stay clean. The floors never stay swept. The food goes into the children and then it comes back out again. I struggle to learn the names of 90 students, teach them everything I know about Vermeer and Chopin, read a pile of papers and exams, and agonize over each and every score. Then I print out my final grade roll on one page followed by another for the next semester’s batch of new students. I suspect they never actually graduate. It’s really just the same ones cycling through again and again. And still I’m not sure if they’re learning anything.

Will I ever get control of my life again? Will I ever wake up with a feeling of joy at the thought of a new day instead of an ache in my jaw from grinding my teeth all night? Will I ever have a clear head and a spring in my step and clean fridge?

And don’t tell me “when the kids are grown you’ll look back at these times and cherish them.” I want to cherish them now. I want to love every minute of the ride instead of clinging to the side, mind reeling, pupils whirling, dizzy and nauseous. I’d do so much better if someone could just please get this crazy Teacup to stop spinning.


Lianne said...

We all know these moments, Julie. They are called "learning curves" and sometimes they are just God's way of telling us to say "no" to something, or a whole lot of somethings. And I know you are thinking, "What could I possibly let go? This is my LIFE!".

When I feel like this I find 10 minutes and I just sit and breathe. Big, deep breaths. Then I pray and I ask God to help me through the mess. Soon the mists will part and you will see your way through.

Just breathe.

And remember this: "Good Morning, Julie, this is God. I will be handling all your problems today. I will NOT need your help, so have a nice day!"

allysha said...

Sometimes after a vacation it's hard to settle back into the routine! Maybe that's it! You'll get back into it.

freeflycoco said...

I don't know if you were looking for consolation or just venting.
Hopefully both will work.
I have always looked up to you, as the beautiful one who has it all together. It was always a little annoying, but it gave me something to strive for. Now this blog has given me a more realistic image of you. I can't tell you how much it has helped me.
A couple of weeks ago I was feeling like this terrible mother because my 6 month old (Orion) has had colds and ear infections since November. Then I read in your blog about Nora and the 7 plagues. Suddenly I didn't feel so inadequate since someone who I know is an excellent mother had the same problem.
In fact, many of the same problems. I definitely spend too much time on the computer, eating chocolate, and various other things I end up doing instead of cleaning my house or CAR.
You know what helps me alleviate some of the guilt and stress of it all?
1 -- Step back and look at the overall picture (or painting) more often. Isn't it lovely. Look at those beautiful and loving children, and very nice home (despite a little juice on the tile), and adoring family and friends (including this little sister).
2 -- Do a few thing that seem selfish or unnecessary. In the big picture they lead to a healthier you, as long as you don't let yourself feel guilt over them. You deserve it.
Please keep blogging. The fridge can wait.
It's nice for me to know you better and to know you aren't perfect after all.
I hope it's nice for you to know I think you rock! Even more than before. Being perfect is totally overrated.

Mom said...

I'm so sorry you are spinning. All I can say is "been there, done that." But you are handling it much better than I ever did.

For your readers: Julie really is a great housekeeper and wonderful mother and teacher. But she is a perfectionist. (Masters degree with a 4.0, kids who excell, home tastefully decorated which is clean most of the time, etc.)

Sorry if I embarassed you. You are being too hard on yourself. But it was probably cathartic to get it all out. Tie a knot in the thread and hang on. In fact, give yourself a little slack. Tomorrow is a new day and we love you just the way you are.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I definitely do not like being dizzy from the spinning tea cup we call life. It makes me see things all out of alignment. Too bad we just can't get off the ride like we can at Disneyland.

I am sorry you are having such a rough day/week/month. When I get down on myself like this it is hard to get back up. However, I am slowly learning how to say no and how to give up on certain things in life ... emphasis on the slowly.

Hang in there!

Kimberly said...

Okay, I am really liking your mom right now.

But I don't think it's only about being a perfectionist, is it? It's about having this idea of yourself and what you can cope with, and then having that idea shattered by...well, by something almost unidentifiable. It's impossible to describe how that feels.

I'm in the same place in so many ways. Except for me it's the maple syrup that spilled.

I find keeping a done list really helps. Cutting back on some of the extras (but not the blog! please not the blog!!)...and prayer and scripture study are great strengtheners. Just be sure not to cut back on what makes you happy...what makes you feel like you. I've been down that road, and it ends badly.

Whether you wanted it or not, you're going to get smothered in advice, because that's what women do to show their love and concern. It might not be pertinent or helpful in any way, but it -is- love.

The Lazy Organizer said...

I try to be grateful for my struggles because if I didn't have them I would have dfferent ones and I'm pretty sure I would like them even less.

You know what I do when my workout at the gym seems hard? I kick it up a notch and then I really appreciate what I had going on before. (Do not try that at home!)
Then I go home and lock myself in the bathroom for an hour.

TARA said...

Juli Q,

It sounds like you're so focused on the details that every tile in your mosaic looks to you like the oddball molar one in your blog header. One oddball molar is quirky and fun, but tile after tile of oddball molars.... Please trust those of us who adore you when we laud your beauty - inside and out.

Remember when we saw this painting- just days ago? It STRESSED ME OUT! I couldn't see past that one thread. But every time I've looked at it today it just seems so peaceful. I see a woman in the light, content with the task at hand. (And for all we know she is pondering and contemplative every bit as much as our friend who was positioned across the museum from her "living on the ledge.") Perhaps it is because I am about to quit my job and step into the unkown that I have the luxury of not worrying about my individual tiles. (I remind myself - sometimes hourly - that I'm either completely nuts or incredibly blessed.) At any rate, it amazes me how differently I see this painting today.

And for my fellow readers/Julie fans:

Ditto to what Julie's mom said. She's every bit as amazing as you imagine her to be - brilliant, funny, talented, thoughtful, caring, diligent, hard-working, beautiful, faithful and creative - with just the right amount of quirky and fun in the mix! It's why I count her among my most treasured friends.

Em said...

I could have written this (not so eloquently of course and not with the wonderful painting analogy) ... but you are describing my life. I don't think I am spinning quite as many plates as you... but I still feel that they are about to come crashing down around me. So how do I treasure these fleeting childhood days without doing insane in the process?

Radioactive Jam said...

"you’re going to hate me now and never visit my blog again" - I don't (and won't) hate you but yes, I'll never visit your blog again.

However since I'm also one who says I'll "do something and then [doesn’t] do it" - yeah.

"Just keep swimming, swimming" - Dory

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Nice to know that we're bunkmates in Procrastination Purgatory. My standards have lowered so drastically that I consider it a job well done that my kids are alive at the end of the day and I managed to slop some Hamburger Helper down on the table for dinner. Not to dis full time stay-at-home moms and moms who choose public school over homeschooling, but you and I are traveling a different path. And it's fraught with potholes. Our job is to seek out the occasional Dairy Queen on the path and to relaxingly enjoy our Oreo Blizzard with our children and stop stressing about this perceived "perfection" yoke we've hitched to ourselves.

In times like this I often think of what Howard Jones would do and I know that his wise counsel would include saying, "Things can only get beeeettter."

strauss said...

Oh help me God, you could have been writing about my life as well.
Everything feels blurred and out of focus.
Thanks for sharing.
I did want to compliment your writing though, the imagery is quite exquisite. Scribbit recommended you - so glad I stopped by.