I wake this morning and BOOM…anxious. As I come to some semblance of consciousness, I can feel it rush through me in waves. It’s almost always worse in the early part of the day. I’ve never really been a morning person at all, but when I have something weighing heavy on my heart, the anxiety can take me down before I ever get up. And yes, I have something heavy on my heart. For the last two weeks it’s been chewing me up inside. I’m in a quandary about how to handle a relationship, and I have yet to come to any solid conclusion of how to proceed.
But I push that aside for the moment…it’s my oldest daughter’s birthday. She’s turning seven. My STARS, I love that girl. I want today to be special for her, of course. But due to her dad and brother being on the other side of the globe, I feel a lump in my throat (on top of the one induced by the in-limbo friendship). Her father is teaching with a university study abroad program, and the 10yo boy hitched a ride. It’s an amazing adventure for them for sure, but it means we’re apart for seven weeks this summer, and darling daughter’s birthday falls within. We can’t wait for them to get home.
I brew myself some Zen tea, because maybe if I drink Zen, I’ll become Zen. I could really use some Zen. After breakfast, we sit down to open presents. Birthday girl gets new purple tennies, an assemble-and-paint-your-own birdhouse, art supplies, hair clips and a book titled The Dot (“make your mark and see where it takes you”). Little sister wants all birthday girl’s new toys for herself, and there is excessive fussing about the matter. It annoys me. It really, really annoys me. Kinda comes with the territory though. We save the gift from Daddy – shipped all the way from Italy – until later in the morning when he calls via FaceTime. It’s a small, leather-bound journal. Birthday girl LOVES it and illustrates a sketch in it immediately. The FaceTime connection is terrible; it only elevates my frustration and annoyance.
I put some of the girls’ clothes away. I wash two loads of bedsheets and blankets. To say the kitchen sink is overflowing with dirty dishes is an understatement. I unload the dishwasher and reload it and you can’t tell a difference on the counter because the dishes are OUT…OF…CON…TROL.
During our afternoon “quiet time”, I think about my friend again. I mull over how I’ve handled other relationships in my past (confrontation, pulling back emotionally, talking it out rationally) but none of it seems to fit this situation. It’s like I’m mentally blocked from coming up with a solution. Maybe that means I need to wait. Just wait. Be still and wait for an answer. There could be something to glean in the waiting, right? Ughhh…WAITING. Why is it so hard to wait?
After baby girl wakes from nap, I suggest going to Cracker Barrel for dinner; birthday girl has been asking to go for months and said earlier in the weekend that she wanted to eat there today. Easy enough. We go at 4:30 in the afternoon because taking kids out to eat is a known anxiety source for yours truly. And I’m REALLY trying to avoid any more flipping anxiety inducers. Birthday girl orders pancakes and bacon, and she’s THRILLED. Pancakes and bacon are Daddy’s forte. I think she’s missing him, though you can’t read it in the ecstatic joy glowing from her face and wiggling out her extremities. I watch her gobble down her dinner but she doesn’t realize I’m watching her; my mouth smiles and my eyes tear. I feel sad that her dad and brother aren’t here, that there’s no extended family with us to celebrate. It’s just the way it shakes out sometimes. I know that, but it still makes me sad. And then I think of people who live their lives this way, as a full-time single parent, and it makes my heart ache. My heart aches a lot these days. Is it age, is it life experience, or is it just me? As birthday girl finishes up, she asks with a grin “Is this a dream?” She also begs to knock back the leftovers in her mini-bottle of syrup.
The girls fiddle around with the toys in the shop, then we mosey outside and sit in the rocking chairs on the porch that runs along the front of restaurant. Rocking in that chair with the abnormally-fair-for-this-time-of-year breeze wrapping around me is the most relaxed I’ve felt all day. Really. I think I could sit here all evening. I even like the smell of the cigarette smoke that’s wafting my way. But the girls need some space to run, so I suggest moving the party to the university campus near our home. We park near the horrendously ugly, spaceship-from-the-’70s coliseum, find an open door, and step onto the concourse. The long-familiar aroma snaps me back to my college days, and even farther back, to when I came here as a child with my parents to Bible Teachers’ Workshop and with my grandparents to the ACU Lectures. We walk out onto center court, the 7yo stomping on the Wildcat’s fangs decaled to the middle of the floor. I have so many memories here. A lot of good ones, some…not so much. And this room brings so many people to mind: ones who taught me about faith and God’s grace, ones who made me feel loved and accepted, ones who hurt me deeply with their college-age drama. It’s strange how the scent of something can turn on the past so vividly, like if you just close your eyes, it almost feels like the present. Except it’s not. The days I’m pondering were twenty, thirty years ago. The past is sealed shut, and the tears well up. I can’t help it. That’s a whole lot of memories and emotion rushing at me in a matter of thirty seconds. Maybe I think too much.
We wander around campus some more, the girls running up and down whatever steps they can find, the 7yo climbing a statue like a monkey. We walk into the building where their dad and I married, and peek into the chapel where we promised to be partners-for-life almost 17 years ago. It’s striking to see these two girls standing there, in the very same spot where I stood in a wedding gown, with no inkling they’d be part of my life someday. We stroll through the building – this part of campus where you see signs over doors that read “Missions & Ministry”, “Graduate School of Theology”, “Marriage & Family” – and I consider the idea of going back to school for a degree in counseling of some sort. I want to help people heal. I’ve felt this more pointedly over the last few weeks. I want to help others heal and feel hope again. Gotta pursue some healing for myself first though. We take off our shoes and walk through the cool grass back to the car, back past the coliseum with it’s thousands of empty seats, waiting the summer for the newest freshman class to start constructing their past. Waiting.
I’m already hungry again by the time we get home. The girls are tired and thirsty. They bathe and drink, and I shuttle them off to bed. My parents call to serenade the newly-turned 7yo with “Happy Birthday”; she says she’s had a good day. I’m glad. Three weeks till the boys get home. Night falls. I write. I wait.