My son, Dillon, was sick again. My other son, Blake, had more than the usual share of snot running out of his nose. I shifted from a regular Wednesday to a “sick day”, and conceded that most of my to-dos would not get done today.
But, there was one thing I really needed and wanted to do. In the grand scheme of life it could have waited until the next day. Of course it could have waited. Most things can wait.
I heard all the voices in my head, “Life is short and children grow up quickly and today, your kids need their mommy.” I needed the world to stop spinning. Just stop moving for thirty minutes so I could complete my task. Okay, forty-five. (I always underestimate how much time something will take, so the extra fifteen wouldn’t hurt.)
Dillon is a big boy now. Taking care of him involved tucking him into a snug cocoon on the couch and turning on his favorite TV show. But, not Blake. It was barely 9 a.m. and he was already bored. He insisted on standing two inches from the television screen. I could hear his cries of, “Mommy, hold you. Mommy, I want a snack. Oh, sorry Mommy, I spilled it.”
I watched as coffee stained the pages of Seth Godin’s Tribes. The book is about being a leader. I was being a terrible leader. The voices of reason wrestled with the voices of my critics, “Angie, you just had a baby. You have three kids now. You’re supposed to be tired and cranky. Give yourself a break.”
Sometimes the simplest, and the hardest thing to do, is be their mom. I thought that once I took a leap of faith and started doing work that really mattered to me, work that added a sense of purpose and meaning to my life, it would get easier somehow. I thought it would make me feel whole, not fragmented or conflicted. My work is like a fourth child. It seemed to be calling to me and demanding my attention. I did not want to choose. But, I can’t be everywhere, and everyone, at once.
I glanced over at my daughter, Cate, so tiny and precious. She was sound asleep in the vibrating bouncy chair. I thought, “Thank you, Little Miss.” Later, she stirred and let out a pitiful baby moan. I picked her up and noticed she was hot. Yellow gooey stuff was oozing from her eyes. I knew my infant was sick. I called my husband at work and told him to come home so I could take her to the pediatrician.
I felt sober, awake and calm as I heard the doctor say, “I’m sending you to the hospital. You need to be prepared because they will probably admit her.” I put Cate in the car and headed downtown. I didn’t question what I needed to do in that moment. I called my husband with instructions. “This is going to sound so much worse than it probably is. It is probably just a virus but they have to make sure. I need you to pack a bag for me.”
The world had stopped spinning. There was no confusion. No tug. No conflict. For two days, I sat with Cate in a hospital room while they ran a bunch of tests. We bonded as I played paparazzi. She gave me the stink-eye.
During our stay at the hospital, a friend came to visit. I was thrilled to have her company, but I was so tired I barely spoke. There were long pauses in our conversation because my brain felt blank. I apologized, and told her how much her being there meant to me. Then, she said something I won’t forget, “Angie, you don’t have to perform.”
“Thank you,” I said, wondering why I assume that I do. Most likely, out of fear. The fear of losing it all.
Two days later, Cate and I came home. The house was clean. My husband was my hero. Dillon and Blake were the most adorable creatures I had ever seen. That’s when I realized what pulls me apart also holds me together.
Over the years, I have weeded out the clutter, pruning my personal and my professional life so it reflects what matters most. And still, my plate overflows. My life is loaded up with the good stuff, and many times it is messy and imperfect, and spills all over the place. Maybe that’s the point.
Managing my priorities is not about performing. I don’t have to keep all the balls in the air. It’s not my job to be everywhere or everyone at once. I don’t have to hold on so tightly to every little thing. Sometimes, I have to have enough faith to let go.
QUESTION: Have you ever had an experience where suddenly, your priorities became very clear? What did you learn?
CHALLENGE: Do you have trouble letting go? Decide what is important in the moment and focus on that.
Rope photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cate photo courtesy of Angie Mizzell