Every morning I get dressed, make lunches, locate shoes, drop her off at school and go to work. I come home after a day at my desk, tired and hungry because I forgot to eat lunch again and I've been talking talking typing reading thinking for hours and all I want to do in the whole wide world is sit quietly for ten minutes with my eyes closed and not read email, not converse, not dial the phone, not think, not anything.
But I can't. My second career for the day has started. It's time to play with blocks and ride the bicycle (tricycle) and get cereal bars from the pantry. It's time to defrost some chicken for dinner and unload the dishwasher, sort the mail, start some laundry. I am asked to turn on Elmo, Nemo, Elmo, Nemo, ELMO! I run and I jump and I play and I dance and I hide and I seek on command. I give her crayons and paper and warn her about the walls. I fill the tub with warm bubbly water and watch her make maw-ga-weetas with a plastic cup that she shakes high above her head and I smother her with kisses and books before tucking her into bed with her favorite stuffed monkey. I always wonder if it was enough. Did I do a good job at this today? I think so.
Then I take on my third role for the day. I sit and talk, really talk, with my husband and 3 nights out of 5 I wait to make our dinner until after she's gone to bed so we can eat it in peace with giant glasses of wine that we savor in the dim twilight of a lingering summer. We talk about the news and the stupid politicians and this funny thing someone said on Twitter. We talk about people we know and things we want to buy when we have limitless stores of cash. We watch Netflix and television on the sofa, me curled up next to him, the dog at my feet.
Sometimes I go to the gym or I plan birthday parties. I make grocery lists, I fold laundry or I sit upstairs and watch 4 episodes of True Blood because he doesn't like it and I love it. I get a pedicure with my friend down the street because out here in the suburbs people I know actually live close to me. I talk to my friends in the computer and I troll the unlimited content of my reader. I putter. I sit and I finally get my quiet time. Sometimes.
It is tough and grinding and exhausting, this daily juggle of wants and needs. It is constant prioritization, sacrifice and muscle. It is weighing This versus That a thousand times for a variety of people. Some days, it seems like either everyone is happy or nobody is happy and there is no in-between. I fight with my roles and pit them against each another, calm with the knowledge that I'll never, ever achieve the perfect version of a stupid notion called balance. (I'd like to smack the person who came up with THAT idea.) I tell myself that my life isn't complex, but as I go through the motions of each day I'm always shown that it actually is. Admitting that things are complicated isn't a weakness. It's just a fact.
I wish there were more hours in the day to get everything neat and tidy for the next one. I wish I had more time with her and with him and for me. It is wonderful and at times it can be horrible, but this life is all mine. We are lucky to have opportunities to push and pull the mechanisms that impact our day-to-day. It's these opportunities to control our own destiny that remind me we're living a quintessential American story.
It's not a perfect life. Not a magazine or television life. Hell, it's not even good enough for a post on a shelter or design blog (just look at the three half-eaten containers of yogurt that have been on the kitchen countertop all day). Even though it's messy and I'm guaranteed hard work in every day, it's my life and I'm fortunate that it's entirely up to me to make it as good or as bad as I want.
I deeply value my freedom to make my own decisions. There's nobody but myself to say I can't do something. I live with my successes and I live with my failures.
It's kind of kick-ass to have that kind of power. A lot of people worldwide don't. I can do or be or change whatever I want.
I'm thinking about making myself a cape. It'll make the drudgery of laundry a little more exciting, don't you think?