My senior year in college I had a lot going on. I was teaching aerobics, working curtain for the senior dance recital, finishing core credits in math and sociology, and writing a 20-page paper (all in french) about the theatricality of the Marquis De Sade (don't ask.) But one day I was sitting at my desk looking at my color-coded schedule (I used a custom excel spreadsheet back then because MS office was so bad) and I noticed I had an opening two evenings a week. What was I going to DO with all that free time? Tuesdays and Thursdays CANNOT be empty! The hours loomed in front of me like a swirling black hole of unbooked dread.
I know! I said. I'll try out for a musical!
And that's how I landed a chorus role in my last play ever, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
The lasting impact of this production is that sometimes when I go downstairs in the morning to make coffee a line pops into my head. "If I can't take / my coffee break / something within me DIES."
Cutting libretto. Sondheim it wasn't.
I was thinking of this production today as I poured my coffee, pumped my breastmilk, and simultaneously planned my day as much as I can. What are we doing today? What's on the schedule? Will I get to exercise? Will I take the kids for an outing so they don't fight? What are they eating for lunch? For dinner? What am I eating to stay under 1800 calories? Did I say we would do ice cream today? Do I need to make allotments in my eating plan for ice cream?
The same part of me that says "coffee coffee coffee coffee AAAAAAAAH!" (to steal a line from the show) is the part of me that says, "No unplanned time, there must be NO UNPLANNED TIME." I have thought this is the way I cope with motherhood and the demands of housework, but I realize now it goes deeper than that. Scheduling myself so that I can't pause to reflect. This is the way I cope with life.
Life sometimes provokes emotions that are unpleasant. Loss, shame, fear of future loss or shame, and failure. It's easier not to deal with these things. It's easier to run to the next thing, to think "Quick, what am I going to eat?" instead of thinking, "Why do I feel this way? What is happening?"
What IS happening? That seems to be the perpetual question. My inner child is a stary-eyed Cupie doll, stupid, clueless, wondering what everyone else knows that I don't. What's going on guys? What are we supposed to be doing? Did I miss the orientation on EVERYTHING?
This little person feels helpless against the swirling black question mark future. Quick, schedule things on top of that. Things that scream: I KNOW what is going on! I have MADE the timetable!
But in a moment of caffeinated lucidity, I am giving myself a reality check. None of us know the future. None of us is prepared for the hurts that might come our way. Nor the surprising heart-stopping joys, neither. I can deal with that reality through failed attempts at control. Or I can approach it humbly, through fear and trembling, in some way that invites the devine, something akin to awe.
I'm not quite sure how to do it. Maybe... drink tea?