It is 8:15 PM, my husband is out of town, three glasses of carnations are drinking colored water on the windowsill – part of a science fair project that needed observation and photographing fifteen minutes ago. I’m in the middle of bathing two rowdy boys who just chewed up my favorite taper candle, and my girls are swinging a laundry hamper in circles at such a speed I am positive the hamper will rocket out of their hands and into the wall, leaving a heckuva high-velocity dent.
“Please put the hamper away and get into your pajamas,” I say.
There is no response. No intimation that the hamper is going to stop spinning and land in the closet where it belongs.
“Please put the hamper down and get into your pajamas and come upstairs.”
I’m using my firm voice now. That one that says I mean it.
Foolishly thinking they will listen to me, I head upstairs to comb third daughter’s wet hair. A few seconds later I hear a horrid thud. The perpetrator comes upstairs and asks me not to get mad when she informs me the hamper did indeed fly into the wall. She’s not sure how… it just did.
The dent is bigger than I imagined.
I am angry. I am ready to scream. So I do. Scream. And suddenly this insane woman erupts out of my innerds and I am howling like the wind. The kids scatter. I slam the hamper into its proper place and retreat to the kitchen to cool off.
How is it I can rage like that?
I’ve been reading Quiet by Susan Cain (fascinating by the way) and I am mystified by the revelation that I am in part an introvert who needs quiet, solace, alone time to read, write, recharge. And yet, I have five beautiful, energetic, climb-the-wall crazy creatures under my auspices, who suck everything out of me by day’s end and the only recharge I get is nocturnal. But let’s talk straight. My kids are my greatest joy, my most important purpose, each one an indisputable miracle. They aren’t the problem. The real issue is that I can’t find that centeredness within – that zen-like place of coolness that reins in emotion and keeps me caring more about them than I do the wall.
So I wrote this Japanese proverb on a heart-shaped paper and taped it to a kitchen cupboard.
“The wind howls but the mountain remains still.”
I put it there because somehow, I’ve got to learn how to “remain still” when the wind is howling around me, when the chaos reigns so supremely I am prone to join the madness. I’m not doing a very good job of it. Lately, each test of patience, of stillness, of self-mastery has left me feeling like a slop of spineless agitation.
I apologized to my girls, told them how imperfect I am. That I am learning too, and making mistakes along the way, that I was sorry I behaved like a crazy mamma.
I’m not looking for parenting advice. I’m not looking for sympathy. Or criticism (which I know is justified). I’m just venting, as honestly as I can, the hardness of this season in my life – this time when I crave quiet and stillness, but find so little. I know I have high expectations for myself – ones that are unrealistic. But I don’t want to regress. We are meant to progress, right? That is the plan. Even if it is sluggishly slow.
The only answer I’ve come up with is prayer.
Earnest, kneeling in morning prayer for patience does help. I’ve seen the pattern. I know it. And praying at night to ask forgiveness of my mistakes, of those less-than stellar parenting performances, gives me comfort, as well as the courage to wake up to a new, untarnished day and try again.
That is where I am this morning. Bent before the Lord, picking up the pieces, begging for light and healing, starting over. While I am not the mountain, I am grateful for One who is.
“When my foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. For the Lord is a great God. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. [He] forgiveth all iniquities, healeth all diseases, redeemeth life from destruction. [He] is gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalms 94:18, 95:3-4, 103:3-4, 8).
How do you access stillness during stressful times? What about prolonged seasons of stress – how do you cope spiritually? What does it mean to you to remain still?