The other day I agreed to let the Almost-Teenager have four friends spend the night. Don’t ask me what I was thinking. As far as I’m concerned anything beyond one single houseguest is a “sleepover party” and I’m philosophically against sleepover parties, so it’s a mystery. It seemed like an okay idea at the time – when the Almost-Teenager was alone and well-behaved and asking politely – but as soon as just one boy showed up, I could feel the shrillness in the air and I knew that my decision was a very bad one indeed.
Early in the evening, the five Almost-Teenagers left the compound and went on a short neighborhood adventure. It was quiet while they were gone, quiet enough that I noticed how tense I’d become while they’d been braying here with their hootenanny antics.
Instead of seeking out my husband for comfort and solace – asking him to help calm and center me – I did what I always do: I cornered him and started complaining that we have too much “stuff.”
I don’t know how those two things have become inextricably entwined in my psyche, but they are. I go from “The Kids Are Acting Looney” to “I Feel Like Every Single Thing In This House Has One Purpose And That Is To Stand Between Me And Whatever It Is I’m Looking For.” My husband usually finds these rants of mine understandably distasteful. He feels defensive and ashamed. He does have a lot of stuff, but the truth is, so do I. And I have a really difficult time going through it and getting rid of all I don’t need.
On the heels of that ugly scenario, I read this blog post from my friend Laura about her being gifted a session with a personal stylist. Someone who came to her house, went through her closet with her and instructed her what should stay and what should go. The stylist took what remained and showed her how to put pieces together so they actually look good. So that she looks good.
So last week I told my husband that what I wanted for Mother’s Day. Please don’t get me a plant, I told him. I don’t want any gifts that I need to keep alive. And that one year that y’all got me that tree pruner – that was imaginative, but it didn’t really sing Mother’s Day to me. I’m happy to have Mother’s Day be business as usual, but if you are going to go to the trouble of getting me something, this is something I’d really enjoy.
I don’t know why having a clean, streamlined, efficient closet would make a difference in how I feel about a slew of sugar-pumped boys ransacking my house, but in my mind’s eye, it does. I might not convey any more authority when I yell, “Put your popsicle sticks in the trash!” but at least I know I won’t be wearing the sea-green tee shirt (which is wrong, wrong, wrong) when doing so.
I have to say, I feel the difference already. In fact things began to shift starting with that initial sleepover breakdown. My husband did not get defensive during my fit, and instead listened to me quietly. He said something rational like, “We can clean out the basement and the playroom together, but we’re not going to start that project tonight.” I felt heard, so I calmed right down. He didn’t take my barbs personally – or at least I think he didn’t. The whole thing passed uneventfully and I thought, Wow, this is how grown-ups act.
I don’t know why it requires something cataclysmic for me to put my own life in order. Or to ask for what I secretly want. I don’t want to turn into (or remain?) a person who feels like she needs to endure months of feeling stifled or oppressed in order to break out, Helen Reddy style, and roar about what she’s rightfully entitled to. I just want to be a woman who says, “Hey this seems like fun and would make me feel good,” and have that sentence be completely independent of how many lunches I prepare or how many carpools I drive. To provide for myself simply because I like making myself happy.
And because it feels good to be one happy mother.