I spend a lot of my day in motion–cleaning, cooking, carting–basically, careening from one moment to the next. It’s a perpetual cycle of ups and downs, back and forths, over here, to over there, go, go, gone. On the surface, there isn’t much to show for all this movement except mud-tracked floors, upturned shoes in a heap, and crumbs from everything you could possibly imagine–good Lord the crumbs! For all the work I do you’d think things would be cleaner.
I’m finding a lot of contradiction in my life right now and this reality is leaving me frustrated. For instance, I spend a lot of mental energy wishing for more time alone, but if offered, there’s no where else I’d rather be. I spend a fair amount of time covered in food, sweat and children, wanting it all to be a little easier and maybe a little slower, but at the same time, infinitely grateful that my children need me so much; hoping that I’ll always remember their weight resting on my chest or the smell of their sticky breath in my face. I frequently lament the never-ending dirt, but there is something so sweet about washing tiny, impossibly flexible hands that makes my heart sigh.
These busy years of my life with two toddlers, my only choice is to move. I swing from one side of my day to the other, from busyness to boredom; burdens to beauty. I feel like I’m riding a pendulum, never still, in perpetual back and forth. The higher and harder something rotates to one side of my life; my angst, my fear, my doubt–the faster, easier and higher it rotates back to the opposite of it– my faith, my bliss, my calm.
One thing is always certain, I have never been more exhausted.
Laundry, wiping sticky counter tops, preparing pb&j sandwiches for the frillionth time, these things make up the bulk of what I do in this stage of life and yet they have nothing to do with the reasons I became a mother. I have come to realize that this is an unfair, frustrating reality. That these monotonous things are the motions I must go through to find the ultimate purpose at the core–the active toddler in just the right mood to cuddle, the perpetually dirty, easily edible, baby fingers–or my favorite–experiencing a whole new world through their eyes.
This menial, often overwhelming tedium that I must endure is what allows me to swing back to the other side of this life– the glorious, random moments. There simply is no amount of money or fame that could pull me away from this life because the more hands I wash, the less likely I am to forget how they feel inside mine and I know enough about life that one day will pray for that simple, priceless memory.
There is so much work that goes into each day, and yet on the other side of the pendulum, there is so much joy smashed right up along side it. But I also know that it takes a conscious effort to realize that joy.
It’s easy to believe that the tasks, the labor, the work is where we spend most of our time and energy because it’s the hardest part and easiest to explain. It’s simple to complain about the endless paperwork, the commute, the mess, incessant whining and tantrums that come with more ferocity than ever. These things are universally understood and will illicit loads of sympathies and commiseration.
What’s harder is making a conscious effort to notice and express the other things.
There is no simplistic way to explain how the telepathic connection with your 3-year-old works… or feels. It’s impossible to quantify the invisible bonds that tether you to your children with just one look. Bonds built through familiarity, dependability, proximity and all the many repetitive acts that go into each day. People might think you weird should you stop to wax poetically about the way your one-year-old studied a rolly-polly bug this afternoon. Those are the subtleties. The subtleties that are often forgotten as you swing through your day from one chore to the next. I have a feeling that it’s these subtleties that will come barreling at me when I send them off to college. And although they often allude me, it’s why I must strive harder to take note of them– to attempt to make them equal in strength (if less in quantity) to all the other mundanity of my days.
I think there’s an important lesson in this life that involves learning how to balance these swings, or at least acknowledge them. To make the methodical cleaning of toilets, mildewed swimsuits and fingerprints on every glass surface (or long day at work dealing with the public or a jerk boss) be as equal in strength to the wondrous awe of watching the sunlight hit your baby’s hair revealing the colors of your own for the first time. (Or, let’s face it, what you think the color of your own might be.)
And perhaps it’s not something as precise as an equation to be equaled, or pendulum to be steadied, but instead, something more natural, arcane even; more like a gravitational, orbital path. Because if it’s an orbit, that means there is a core; something with a pull so strong it can both swallow, and save us. It’s gotta be the whole reason for this Life in Motion; the force behind the pull in opposite directions, around and around.
Something I must try less and less to fight and more and more to slip inside of; make peace with.
Yes… a spinning, orbiting, rotating, paradoxical life of happiness and discord in equal strengths, if not measures, but always surrounding the same white-hot center. A burning, beating heart of reason and purpose. The only thing that matters anyway… always.