I just had an epiphany.
I did. Right here in my very own kitchen.
When D and I were first married, I always felt like I had to just outdo myself when Martha and Sissie would visit. As soon they’d walk in the front door, I’d pick up the pace and start washing loads of laundry and cooking meals and folding clothes and changing sheets and basically racing around my own dadgum house at warp speed because I felt like I needed to be superwife. On some level, I guess, I wanted for them to approve of the way that I was taking care of their son / grandson, so I’d work myself into a frenzy because I told myself that there was some sort of twisted honor in being the busiest person in the room. I actually have a vivid memory of zipping through the den with a full basket of laundry while Martha and Sissie sipped on some coffee, and as I sat down my laundry basket in the next room and picked up a load of clothes that CLEARLY NEEDED TO BE WASHED IMMEDIATELY, I overheard Sissie say, “Martha? Does she EVER sit down?”
NO, I thought to myself. I NEVER SIT DOWN. BECAUSE IF I SIT DOWN THERE WILL NOT BE ANY WAY FOR YOU TO SEE HOW HARD I AM WORKING.
I’ve mellowed over the last fifteen years, of course, but if I’m honest I have to admit that I still have that tendency to go into overdrive when Martha comes to visit. I create a pace that’s not really sustainable, so in the middle of trying to be the happy daughter-in-law who hasn’t missed a detail in terms of caring for her family, I usually wind up snapping at my husband or cutting off the little guy mid-sentence. There have been more times than I’d like to admit when D and I were barely speaking at the end of the night, but by diggity I was going to fire up one last pot of coffee for my mother-in-law and make sure that we had a plan mapped out for the next day that involved shopping at six different stores and getting lunch at that cute little place that serves the best chicken salad. The following day I’d wake up and be worn out by mid-afternoon and could barely muster a glare at my husband when he walked through the door, but LOOK WHAT A GOOD DAUGHTER-IN-LAW I’M TRYING TO BE, WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE ME A TROPHY?
This morning the little guy and I were supposed to drive to Mississippi to pick up Martha and bring her back here for a few days, but first we had to run by the car place because my oil light was on. We finally got on the road two hours later than we planned, and by the time we got to my hometown, I had that icky feeling of being hurried because we were running so far behind schedule. Martha kept me entertained with stories on the way back here, but judging by the traffic we were in, most of the residents of Mississippi and Alabama had rented moving vans and/or charter buses today and were perfectly content to hang out in the left lane and then speed up when I tried to work my way around them. I’ve never been one for road rage, but by the time I got to our exit, it felt like there were lead rods in my shoulders, and I wanted to lay on my horn if someone in front of me did so much as click on a turn signal. I was done. Congratulations, traffic, YOU WON.
When we finally got to our house, my initial instinct was to plaster a smile on my face and immediately start playing the role of happy hostess. But our early morning combined with about six hours in the car combined with traffic combined with an epic case of the frayed nerves left me feeling like I wanted to do anything but chit-chat. And for whatever reason, in an unprecedented change of relational pace on my part, I decided that I was going to do the smart thing instead of the easy thing. I helped Martha get settled in her room, and then I said, “If you’ll give me about thirty minutes, I need to check my email and decompress just a little bit.”
I DID. I said it out loud just like a real-live grown-up. And of course Martha was totally fine with that because, well, she’s Martha. She and the little guy found a show to watch, and I went in my bedroom and sat down in a chair and didn’t move for the next half hour. I even dozed off a couple of times. And once I finished that second catnap, I was a new woman. I got up and made us a pot of coffee, and when D came home about 45 minutes later, I wasn’t snippy or snappy or outdone because I’d spent the whole day without one centimeter of margin. Those thirty minutes changed everything, and I wish I could travel back to 1998 and tell the newlywed version of me to SIMMER DOWN, SISTER – IT’S OKAY TO SIT A SPELL.
I realize that all of this may sound cuckoo crazy if you’re a super laid-back person who never worries what other people think. But I’m a pleaser – albeit an occasionally resentful one. So doing what I needed to do instead of doing what I thought I was supposed to do was a new and different approach for me. AND IT WORKED. Changed the whole course of my day.
That was my epiphany.
And I’m totally doing the same thing tomorrow.