Admittedly, life can sometimes be . . . a lot. Work at work, work at home, work in relationships, work on ourselves – lots and lots of work piles up into a mountain. And, though we may work all day long chipping away at that pile, somehow we wake up the next day and find the mountain is just as tall, or taller, than the previous day. I once signed into my work email and found 22 messages. By 5:00 pm, there were 28 messages in my inbox. Yet, in my processed folder, there were 50 emails from the day. What kind of email math fuckery is that?! Feeling defeated and annoyed, I signed off for the day and moved directly into my other demanding job – parenting my child. I fielded lots and lots of questions, I cleaned up lots and lots of messes (physical and mental, but the kitchen sink was still piled high), and then I finally collapsed into the last duty of the day: the bedtime routine. After two books, two songs, a prayer, and a made-up story that I repeated for the umpteenth time because I was drained of the creativity to invent a new one, my son asked frankly, “Is that all you have?”
“Is that all you have?” The question spun around my mind, weaving itself into everything I did. Indeed, where is the limit of “all I have?” Is a mother a limitless soldier? Should she be? Can she be?
At work a few weeks later, I assisted with hosting a three-day event for 150 people. I had a marvelous time doing this, playing the single role of worker-bee, where the expectations were clear and manageable. Though it was a nice change of pace, the event left me extraordinarily exhausted. I am an introvert, and this conference was highly social. Once it was over and I was home again, I would have liked to have slept from Friday night through Saturday afternoon. But work, and especially work in motherhood, is not concerned with serving an introvert’s needs. So instead, I was up five hours earlier than I would have liked, taking my child to soccer. Lamenting this to myself, I know these choices are not mine to make anymore. As a mother, I rarely get to do what I want when I want. This sacrifice eventually adds up and my energy levels become null and void, having burned through all the reserves surrendering my needs to my child’s wants.
When this happens, the delicate balance that is mental health quickly swirls down the drain. The thoughts hum to the tune of “Oh, I am DONE. But I can’t get what I need so. . . how will I survive my life?” And from there, I start to fantasize about a magical portal into introversion, where only my dog and I can pass through, and I sleep and eat and watch TV all day and no one knows that I exist in this space, and I am left completely alone.
But that is not my life – it’s none of ours, whether or not you have children. Still, I often find myself yearning and searching far and wide for a loophole out of the daily grind and into alone time. Finally, it showed up for me in the form of the most obvious thing ever: taking a sick day from work. There’s a DayQuil commercial that claims, “Moms don’t take sick days,” and that is true 97% of the time . . . until the mother has run herself into the ground and is forced to recover.
For weeks I limped through work and family life before finally waking up not feeling well enough to go to work. Though I wasn’t sick with a cold, I knew I could not mentally and physically give of myself anymore. So, I called out from work, wished my family members a good day, silenced my phone, took a nap, watched TV, and ate. The time alone was necessary and glorious. It turns out that there is a loophole to my introverted happy place, after all.