My girl Oprah has often said that the universe speaks to us first in whispers.
“I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in
your life usually feels like ‘hmm, that’s odd.’ Or, ‘hmm, that doesn’t make any
sense.’ Or, ‘hmm, is that right?’ It’s that subtle. And if you don’t pay
attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it’s like
getting thumped upside the head. If you don’t pay attention to that, it’s like
getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that—the brick wall
falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people’s
lives. And so, I ask people, ‘What are the whispers? What’s whispering to you
now?'” — Oprah
The other night a giant anvil fell on my pretty little head, and I have resolved to do better.
Last week, I received the worst grade of my academic career, methinks. A 70. No curve. Just a straight-up 70 that was not taunting me from my scantron for lack of trying. I had been to every class and taken mountains of notes. I had read, highlighted, and then recorded myself reading the highlights from the two chapters. I had done all of the problems on the worksheets twice. I had stolen away from my family on Sunday afternoon and escaped to the campus library to prepare.
I sat in the classroom just a bit stunned. My first grade in this class was a 95. The second was an 88.
Sure, I wasn’t getting any sleep. My baby up and decided at the end of January that she would prefer not to stay slumbering for more than an hour or two, opting instead to scream her tiny little pumpkin face off to get someone to come in and rock her FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. Some nights we thought it was teeth; then that pesky ear infection; and eventually we had no idea what the hell it was. But it was happening and our brains no worky right anymore.
Perhaps that explained the 70. But because this was an eight-week semester, I had but seven days to prepare for the final. I began brainstorming when I could possibly find the time to accomplish this. Running the numbers, I saw my 4.0 disappear. Dejected, I packed the test and the scantron into my folder and left the classroom.
Ten minutes into my drive home, I said ALOUD: “HOLY SHIT! I STILL HAVE THE TEST!”
You see, from the first minute of this class, we’d been given specific instructions to never leave the classroom with the test. We could take the scantrons, but the test had to be returned. Taking the test out of the room was tantamount to cheating. The instructor said so. Our syllabus said so. So on the heels of the worst grade of my life, I somehow managed to make everything a floppity-jillion times worse.
I pulled off to the side of the road, turned the car around, and raced back to school at maximum speed. I was PANICKED. Though the classroom had been filled with students mulling over their exams when I took off, I knew I had to get this test back to the prof tonight. Keeping it a day would surely make my fate much, much worse.
Arriving back at school, I threw my SUV into a parking space and ran to the room.
Thinking quickly, I pulled the syllabus from my folder – the scarlet test nearly singeing my fingers – and dialed the prof’s direct line. He answered. Breathlessly, I croaked into the phone. “I’m coming! I took the test!”
I entered his office completely bereft, throwing the exam on his desk. I sat down and attempted to explain myself, but my voice was choked with emotion, and the tears began to fall.
I’m sorry… I have two small kids… I’m not sleeping… This is the worst grade I’ve ever received… I had a 4.0… I’m just not getting any sleep.
I was in that office for a while, talking it through with him. Signing documents. Waiting for my blood pressure to lower. In the end, he forgave my honest mistake, annoyed as he was. And I added “loss of dignity” to the ever-growing list of parenting side-effects.
Then he told me a story about a family member who was killed, basically due to work stress. He had had two small kids. “Nothing is worth this,” he said.
I do believe he spoke those words on behalf of the universe. She’s been trying to tell me that for some time, but I’ve been turning a deaf-ear.
I work hard. I wake early to read, to study, to write blog posts as often as I can manage. I take care of my two babies with no help from family members or other caregivers most days. I try to make a wholesome dinner every night. I strive to exercise and return my body to its former glory. I attempt to make Ailie’s baby food. I wash mountains of cloth diapers daily. I clean. I nurse. I read stories. I make lunches. I play. I take the kiddos to the park/My Gym/library/playdates/fire station. I try to talk to my friends when I find a minute. I try to have a conversation with my husband at least once a day, but we don’t always make that goal. I may have to escape to the office to work; he may pass out in H’s room during a particularly rough bedtime.
And despite striving for perfection in every facet of my life, because THAT IS WHO I AM and I need to figure out HOW NOT TO BE THAT WAY, I am missing it.
I’m missing the big picture. All that matters is this little family, and our collective health and happiness. I need to live in this moment, but also step back and decide what is and is not important. In the grand scheme of things, the 4.0 is not worth the stress it ultimately incurs. The B is fine. Maybe a new mantra? I’ll take the B. Then I can watch Mad Men and not feel so damn guilty all the time, thinking about all of the things I should be doing. I am sure J is uber-proud that yesterday, I left a small country worth of dishes in the sink, because I decided it would be much more enjoyable to watch Toy Story 2 with H and roll around on the floor with baby A, rather than clean anything.
I’m just going to do better. I am going to prepare and then relax, in all facets of my life. I’m going to cut myself some slack. I hope you’ll join me. Let’s start a revolution of mothers who just leave the dishes for a night and go and hang out with the babies.
OR, even better: let the dad hang out with the babies if they are driving us bat-shit crazy and go take a bath, or go for a walk, or read a great book. We have surely earned it, my friends.
(Oh and fuck off, “Put down the iPhone” internet meme. Maybe I am looking at the Khan Academy to figure out stock valuations, you self-righteous bastard.)