It’s 5:45 P.M. on a Friday night and I’m driving home after an excruciatingly long day. Stress from the week has finally reached a boiling point and hot tears start falling down my face. It’s just been one of those weeks, and I’m on the ledge in danger of falling into a deep pit of self pity.
I start thinking about the fact that I stayed at school for an hour after the last bell to grade student work and I still had a pile waiting for me when I returned. I reflected on the school week. A week I wanted to forget. I broke up two fights, my eighth period’s misogynistic comments forced me to tears (in the privacy of the bathroom), my computer broke, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of being overworked and under-appreciated. I planned out the following week in my mind, which included several meetings after school. I thought about how my meetings earlier in the week lasted so long that by the time I got home, my daughter was tucked in her bed, sound asleep. Another missed opportunity to spend time with her. My chest ached because I was pulled into a quick meeting at school and I missed a pumping session. The lasting effects were starting to hit me, as sharp pains shot through my chest.
The to-do list for the weekend started scrolling through my mind. The ACT class I had to teach Saturday morning was not yet planned for, the shopping list I had for my daughter’s upcoming baptism reception kept growing, yet the RSVP’s were rolling in slowly and I knew I would have to start tracking down the invitees to get a final count.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had alone time with my husband, and even though he slept next to me every night, he felt a million miles away. The idea of planning a date night seemed ridiculous in light of everything we had going on.
…as I climbed the steps to my house I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to declare to my husband that I QUIT! Adulting was not for me, and I was over all of it.
In the short ride between school and home I had worked myself into a full on anxiety meltdown. I kept telling myself that it was impossible to do it all: mother, teacher (both during the week and on the weekend), wife, club moderator, union member (who is in the middle of contract negotiations), caretaker, party planner…and as I climbed the steps to my house I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to declare to my husband that I QUIT! Adulting was not for me, and I was over all of it.
My husband knew I was having an off week, as I had complained about it over the last few days, so he didn’t question my sullen silence as I came into the house and prepared to nurse my daughter. She was hungry and a bit fussy. As he handed her to me, she smiled as she knew what was happening. Dinner! I felt a surge of relief as the engorgement that was ailing me before began to subside, as did my anxiety.
Over the course of the weekend I began to realize I had it all wrong. I was looking at my life and the things that were making me upset as a problem. In reality, all of those “problems” were things I had prayed for, wished for, and worked for. It was at that point that I saw that I am not in fact burdened, but I am blessed. I had so much to be grateful for!
I began to see that I was allowing the challenges I was facing overshadow the fact that I have so many things going right in my life. I have a job that, although is a major stressor at times, is meaningful and gives me a purpose every day. I have the privilege of being on the team that is building a fair and comprehensive union contract that will benefit many students and teachers who enter the school doors even once I am no longer there.
I have a huge family! And yes, that can mean that parties and gatherings can get pretty expensive and are hectic to plan, but it’s only because everyone wants to be a part of the celebration. How can I be upset with that? There will always be opportunities to make more money, but making memories is more important.
There will always be opportunities to make more money, but making memories is more important
When I think about what I am grateful for, I start to feel lighter. There is still so much in my life that can cause me stress, but I have come to see that it is only because I care so much about it all. As my identity expands to include more and more roles, I’m learning there may be some growing pains associated with each. I have to trust that the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to be successful will also shift, grow, and change. To not have change is to be stagnant, and that is definitely something I don’t want.
By the end of the weekend, I was determined to make a shift in my thinking. I spoke to my husband about what I had been thinking and I shared my frustrations and guilt. To top it off, in all of this, never did I even ask him how he was doing. Why did I think I was the only one struggling? My guilt became heavier.
To not have change is to be stagnant, and that is definitely something I don’t want.
I decided we needed to make a point everyday to be positive and grateful. We agreed to do one little thing everyday that would not only give us time to connect, but also help us to see the blessings in our lives. We set a timer on our phones, to everyday, before bed, share with each other something we are grateful for. Something specific to the events of that day. It can be something the other person did, or something related to work or family or anything really. To hold ourselves accountable we made three rules:
- We BOTH have to do it, even on the bad days. If there is ever a time when we are not together at the end of the day, we must share our gratitudes in a phone call or text message.
- It must be specific not a vague copout statement like, “I’m grateful for my husband.”
- It must be genuine gratitude ( this one was mostly for me since I can get pretty sarcastic when I’m in a bad mood)
I know it may seem like a silly thing, but so far it has made such an improvement in my life and in my marriage. It forces me to stop and think about all the good moments I had throughout the day that can easily be overlooked, and it’s an opportunity to spend a genuine and intimate moment with my husband. It can be said over dinner, or during my daughter’s bath time. It can be just a statement or it can open the conversation to a story from the day I want to share. Eventually, this will be a tradition we will extend to our daughter and future children. We’ve only been doing it for a short time, but I believe it’s something that will last because it makes us feel good and it’s not hard to keep up.
I have to admit, I am a little embarrassed. I let myself go on and on thinking I had it so rough, when it’s the opposite. I am grateful to my readers, for allowing me to be self-centered. We all need to sulk sometimes, but it’s also important to pull ourselves out those dark moments too.
How have you been feeling lately? Have you been looking at your blessings as burdens like I was? It’s never too late to open your eyes and heart, and make a small change that can improve your outlook on life.
Noel Perez-White is an a English High school teacher who recently became a mama. She loves to write about her experiences in the classroom, at home, and her daily life. She’s got some pretty rad Haikus about motherhood going on in her own little corner of the cyberworld at www.reflectionsofamillennialmama.com. She is always looking to encourage other mamas! Feel free to stop by her site and say hello!