It’s a gorgeous morning, but I’m facing the day with some trepidation. Today, the kids will have been out of school for 13 days. There’s another 5 to go before they go back. The sheen has worn off the holidays. While I am grateful to be here typing in my pjs instead of making lunches and barking at them to put on socks and brush their teeth, I also have that heaviness behind my eyes that comes from prolonged exposure to the three beings whose time with me is usually rationed out really rather nicely by the school day.
They’re a lot to behold. And every holiday without fail, I get overwhelmed when I see them day in, day out, in all their technicolor glory, and I come face to face with the incredibly imperfect way I deal with that overwhelm over and over again. When they’re at school, I have those feelings too, but I kiss them at the gates and I process as I walk home, I process as I go about my work, walk the dog, and I process in moments when I sit in my temporarily peaceful house.
But during the school holidays I do none of those things. All my reflection time kind of bunches up on itself, and each moment I don’t stop to reflect crashes into the next one, until there’s been a veritable pile up in my brain of unprocessed thoughts, feelings and experiences.
And the result? A very thin-skinned mother. One whose batteries are a long way from charged. One who routinely loses touch with the rational, who becomes fearful and overwhelmed by the fact that the small pieces of daily life appear to be spiralling out of control rather a lot. A mother who feels like she has bitten off rather more that she can chew.
And that’s why the trepidation today. I’m in a maelstrom of unprocessed living and parenting. It’s all swirling around. I’m neither taking the time, nor finding the time to let it all unravel. I’m going and going and going some more. This is yet another time when a marathon provides me with a helpful analogy. Because this school holiday – it’s definitely not a sprint. It’s longer, sweatier are more arduous. And today feels like the tough bit before the home stretch. This is the bit where it’s hard to imagine getting to the end intact. This is the bit where it seems appealing to sit down and weep on the edge of the kerb and let everyone else run past.
I am lost in the maelstrom of school holiday formlessness. It feels like all the bits of term-time me have been thrown up in the air, and I have no idea quite where the pieces are going to land.
And I know this is something that needs to happen from time to time, and will happen from time to time. Routines need to get thrown out of the window, all your stuff and your plans and what you think you know to be true needs to be chucked up in the air, and allowed to come back to earth in its own haphazard (but possibly better) way. I grudgingly accept that even if I find the process unimaginably uncomfortable, these feelings have value. That there’s going to be some beauty hidden in it somewhere if I just sit with it, keep on keeping on, and wait it out.
But as I sit right now, looking up at this big swirling mess somewhere above me, all jumbled up, all in flux, all combined and altered, I want to duck and cover my head, or run screaming from it, rather than sit and contemplate it (which actually, is all there is to do). I can’t reach up and grab it, weigh it down and force it to conform to the term-time order of things. It doesn’t work that way. This is holiday time. It’s up there because it needs to be up there. Because life, in the form of the school holidays, has thrown it up there. Its out of my reach. It’ll land when it’s good and ready and not a moment before.
And honestly, before I understood what this trepidation was (just a few sentences back), before I found some words to explain it, I was hating the feeling. And I was fighting it for dear life. And I was scared, and looking for reasons, and I was complaining inwardly about the hardness of it all.
But thanks to the magic of writing I can now conceptualise exactly where I am.
Squinting up into the bright sunshine, looking at all the parts of my life, and who I am, and who I like to think I am, up there. All messy. All blown around and chaotic.
And as that realisation comes, it feels quieter down here where I am. It feels peaceful in my head once again. Manageable even. Because I can start to envisage a time when the maelstrom will subside. Probably in about 5 days time.
And when it does, I will sit and reflect and it’ll be bittersweet because it was hard. But I will have learnt something. And I will still love them. I will have grown and I will have changed.
In fact, maybe I already have.
Even as the mess continues to swirl above my head.
I’m excited to say that this blog post is part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn more, read more and join in click here. And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click here.