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.