A few nights ago, I struggled to fall asleep. My body was tired, I had already read several chapters of my book, and JG was snoozing away, gently, at my side. But the gears in my mind were turning steadily and my stomach twisted and turned, enough to be uncomfortable, but not enough to be sick. I swallowed hard. I just have to get through this week, I thought.
Suddenly, I was struck with the realization that I’m always trying to get through things: a work day, a meeting, a long drive, reluctant family time, chores. Anxiety washed over me like a wave, leaving me sputtering and gasping for air, as the thought crystallized in my mind: I can’t survive like this. I am overwhelmed. I tried to breathe evenly, but the panic from my flip-flopping stomach rose to my throat and I began to sob.
Between big sniffs and wiping my eyes, I remembered that, about a year ago, I had recurring episodes like this one. I’d sit up in bed, take a box of tissues off of my nightstand, and cry as softly as possible so that I didn’t wake JG. When the tears were spent, I would lie down again and hope that my body was tired enough to sleep. At the time, I felt trapped because I couldn’t figure out how to meld JG’s and my interests – sports and fine arts, respectively – into leisure time that we both enjoyed. I felt overextended and high-maintenance, so I couldn’t bring myself to draw JG into my nighttime sadness.
Not this time, I decided.
I nudged JG and whispered, “Kiddo?” It’s our mutual term of endearment. “I need to tell you something.”
The sheets rustled. “What?”
“I’m very sad right now.”
He turned over, toward me. “Why? What’s going on?”
I sobbed, “I was just saying to myself that I needed to just get through this week, but I feel like I say that all the time, with everything. How can a person live like this? I’m so tired.”
“I’m sorry, kiddo.”
“I know we can’t solve it tonight, but … I don’t know. It’s just very oppressive right now.”
“I wasn’t going to tell you. Like before, remember? But I didn’t think that was a good idea, so I had to wake you up.”
“I’m glad you did.”
I don’t remember how it happened, but after all of the nose-blowing and deep sighs, I fell asleep. Every so often, I woke up, startled, but reaching out and confirming that JG was beside me was enough to send me back to my dreams.
Soon after that night, I read an essay by Anna Quindlen that looked back to her time as a young mother taking care of three children, aged six and under. A particular passage hit me square in the forehead.
I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
I paused and re-read the last bit.
I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
I don’t want to write that line in 20 years. I will not write that line.
So, this weekend is all about the doing. JG and I are both taking the day off from work on Monday, so we have a nice long weekend. Tonight, we’ll have something off the grill for dinner and then we’ll crash on the couch with our latest Netflix delivery. I’ll turn off my alarm and sleep in as long as I want tomorrow morning. I think we have a few things we want to do, like go climbing, go out for dinner and a movie, and read, but nothing is set in stone. Regardless, I’m going to try to shift my mind to the doing and away from the getting it done.