Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Finding Center

My throat feels raw from yelling. 

I'm outside in the night air, leaning against the side of the house, my breath puffing white in the cold.

I count backwards, trying to calm myself down. 

I get to 2 and the image of Finn's red crying face surfaces.   Guilt crushes me in its unforgiving embrace. 

It's only 6:15pm on a regular old Wednesday, and I'm spent.   My insides feel like cracked glass; I'm one shout away from crumbling.   

There was nothing usual about today.  No great victories or traumas.   It was a series of swells - up, down, up, down.   I tried to ride them out - I did try, didn't I? - but finally my reserves ran dry.   I was already running on fumes when Finn spit at his sister, and it was like a match to gasoline soaked rags.

I stuff my hands deeper into my jacket pockets; I'm shivering, but I'm not ready to go back inside.   I just can't.   I can hear them bickering; Greta's high pitched whine screeches now look what you did!  and something crashes to the floor. 

My Gentle Observer, the one who shows up when I can't get a grip on myself, starts whispering to me:

They feed off your energy, Ellie.   When you go south, it all goes south.   You can't lose it like that.  

But I can't NOT lose it!  I whimper in protest.   The constant push-pull, the endless requests to hurry up, slow down, stop that, come here, do this, don't do that, get in the car, get out of the car, listen to me......     I'm just a nagging shrew.  Nobody listens to me, anyway.  I feel invisible.  Oh, God.   It's always so TEDIOUS.   And IRRITATING. 

It's tedious and irritating right now, the Gentle Observer corrects me, kindly.    It will pass.  Just like all the joyful moments, the surges of love you feel from out of the blue.   It all passes.   Breathe and wait.  

But I yelled at him, I sigh.   I mean I REALLY yelled at him.

So go apologize for over-reacting, but don't let your guilt make you over-apologize.   Not every molehill is a mountain.

I think about this morning - was it only eight hours ago? - when Finn sat bravely in the dentist's chair, one leg crossed demurely over the other, craning his neck as much as he could to keep his eyes on me while the hygienist pecked away at his teeth.

"I am worried, Momma," he had said as he clambered out of the car.   "But if I can see you, I'll be okay."

I think about Greta's eerie silence at breakfast, how I coaxed her to cough up what was bothering her as she pushed pancakes around on her plate.    "Two people want to sit with me on the bus, and yesterday Lisa said if I sit with Janet today she won't be my friend anymore.  Then Janet made me tell her what I was talking to Lisa about, and said she wouldn't be friends with me if I sat with Lisa."   Tears started streaming down her face.  "I don't know what to do," she said through hiccuping sobs, "I like them both and now they are both going to hate me." 

I think about how I held her close and spoke soothing words of encouragement and advice into her ear.   We came up with a plan of action, and then I wiped her tears and flashed her a thumbs up as the bus pulled up at the end of the driveway.   She gave me a confident smile, and squared her shoulders as the bus doors closed shut behind her.

See? says the Gentle Observer.   You're not invisible.  You're the center; the heartbeat of the whole operation.  You can wallow so easily in your mistakes, let them grow like a cancer, and yet you overlook all the goodness.   

Breathing deeply, I start walking back inside, my footsteps crunching in the snow.   I get to the sliding glass door, reach out my hand to open it, and stop dead in my tracks.   Through the glass, I see Greta and Finn lying on their stomachs on the floor, knees bent and crossed ankles swinging back and forth.   Greta is rubbing Finn's back, and he is drawing a picture.   Their heads are bent together, temple to temple.

I slide open the door and step inside.


  1. beautiful, raw, honest, vivid, true, easy to relate to, inspiring. Thank you for allowing us to be outside with you and look back through the day, to listen to the internal struggle, and to see the hope you went back inside with. Needed to read this, I woke up on fumes today, but your words can get me through the bedtime routine. center. dont feed the anger. just for a little longer. Thank you again.

  2. I read Heather's post today. Then Megan's. Now yours. And I'm overwhelmed with how being a mother is just so ... so SO. Know what I mean? How much we hold our breath over every thing, try to guard our un-guardable emotions, worry over what we have said or done, care over every step they take, think about their future and what we can do to help it, make it better and on and on and on. And yet this means we're doing it right in a way, right? Because at least we love them this much. We're trying. Right?

  3. Yes - I love this. It means we're trying and that we care. OH, do we care.

    Thank you, my friend.



  4. "Don't feed the anger". I'm going to carry this with me. It's so comforting to know I'm not alone. Thank you.

  5. All of this. YES. Thank you.
    And then these lovely comments.
    I love blogging. And you.

  6. I kinda feel like crying. This is so beautiful and painful and true.

  7. I was just thinking I haven't heard a peep from you in a little bit, and wanted to make sure you were ok. And then you come up with this beautifully written post, and we're on the same wavelength even though we don't know it. And motherhood is just like that...

  8. God love you, Ellie! You are a wonderful mother. You bring love and awareness to your life and your relationships and that is the very best that any mother can do. WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE! Hang in there!

  9. Oh did I need to read this today. Thank you. Thank you.

  10. This is a great post Ellie. I've had many days like that and always try to look for that one moment where everything really clicked or when something made me smile and just focus on that.

  11. Wonderful post! Thank you - you described feelings we all have and sometimes it's really nice to know we aren't the only ones who feel that way.

  12. I love the concept of Gentle Observer. Beautiful post. I'm now following you. :-)

  13. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  14. OMG, how many times have I been there. I could identify with every inch of this post.
    You were wise to invoke your Gentle Observer; I want to remember to do this, too.
    Thank you, as always, Ellie.

  15. Kelly @kellynaturallyFebruary 10, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    This is beautiful; very real. I appreciate you not just laying out the difficulties but the loveliness of motherhood as well - the need our children have for us to be their rudder, their touchstone.

  16. Oh Ellie, you write so beautifully. It is so real. I know exactly what you mean and I thank you for sharing it with us. I've been there...thank you for reminding me that I set the tone, my energy sets the tone. You have no idea how much you inspire me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  17. Oh my gosh... I have done that exact same thing. Thank you for sharing. Nice to know I'm not the only one to act that way... and that there is nothing wrong with it!!

  18. Such a beautiful post! This sounds like many of my days with my two girls. I am currently reading this book: It discusses almost exactly what your Gentle Observer stated about wallowing in mistakes and not seeing the goodness. I just started seeing a therapist (today was my first session!) to start taking care of me and to work on some parenting issues I have been having. The book I found on my own, though, but it has really been helpful!

  19. I've tears running down my eyes even before I can finish this post. This is so true, the guilt that comes with trying to be strict with the children, I almost hate myself after yelling/scolding/punishing them for their behavior. Yet, their love is so pure, they'd still seek me out for comforting hugs. I would've shove me away instead.

  20. This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday:

  21. Elizabeth @claritychaosFebruary 12, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    Oh, Ellie. This is so honest and moving. I have been that mama outside feeling like shit. I'm her too often. Thank you thank you THANK you for reminding me that I am good and loving and the hub of this little family, too.

  22. This is so sweet...and real. Thank you for sharing your moment. It is good to know I am not alone on those days.
    I just found you and will enjoy reading more of your journey!