Today I stood in the bathroom, looking at my wife and kids. The three year old, or T as we have been abbreviating him online, is sitting on top of the toilet kiddy seat, completely naked, telling me about how he is sitting on the potty like mommy and daddy. I’m glad he’s so happy about this. Most of the day he’s been vomiting and unable to eat, or sleeping. The 1 year old L is sitting in the sink, playing with the breakable travel alarm clock we keep on the counter and my breakable electric razor before I take it away again. My wife is about to try to read to me out of the bible as I try to get both the kids into the bath. Most nights I’m not home for this, and the last several times I’ve come home from work after the kids have had baths there was water splashed half way across the bathroom floor.
But at least during that moment of chaos, I’m holding still. At least on the outside.
A few weeks ago we invited someone over to dinner. With two kids our meals can be something more like a zoo feeding time than a ‘proper’ dinner. But we try to laugh and have fun with it anyways. Trying to hold intelligent conversation, eat, fend off the two little bandits trying to steal my attention and my cup of water, and figure out all of the social communication signals involved with having someone new in my environment is hard. Probably about a week later I’m still internally freaking out because I don’t know if how we use cloth napkins might have communicated a confusing contradiction because cloth napkins normally are used at more formal events and in reality our chaotic dinner habits are born of trying to feed two small children in a hurry. Our guest was very politely following a formality of etiquette that I am aware of but unfamiliar with, leaving me unsure how to interpret what it means when they used it in a complete mismatch to the chaos of the situation. But if you took a photograph of our meal, any given moment might have looked calm enough.
At work the other day my manager praised me for having won the most fake money on our team for use at the year end company auction. Apparently I had 11 customers who gave me 100% scores on good customer service after our phone calls (apparently not many other people got so many) and I practically never miss work or even come in late. On the surface it looks good. Underneath, I’m going crazy from the stress of strained relationships from having too little time away from work and school, strained relationships with myself from having too little time to invest in myself, financial goals that seem just out of reach of our income unless we fight for each dollar, chronically almost incomplete or almost late school work, and just trying to make myself slow down the pace of my inner life. Some days my stress is so high that my acid reflux never really calms down between meals and I spend my time at work massaging my stomach to help relieve the tension building up inside of it. I sometimes stop being able to digest my food fully- I’m not joking that happens to me when I’m on the danger zone of being stressed out. I feel so mentally exhausted that even asking my customers names seems like too much to ask. I frequently forget and have to ask at the end of the call, but honestly I just feel too exhausted to care. As for making multiple sales pitches per call, forget it, I feel great if I can make myself offer them just one sales pitch. I’ve still never figured out how to make even one sales pitch to a 3rd party monitoring tech support company that calls me because their connection to the customers modem went down- they aren’t the decision makes and probably never even talk to the decision makers other than when their monitoring contract was drawn up. And how do you even start to think about selling our own IT support to an on site IT specialist? “Hey just so you know Mr. Local IT, we have this great product that will make your boss lay you off, want to pass the word along to see if your boss wants it?" But if I forget to make those two sales pitches my quality stats will suffer. If I don’t make the calls shorter eventually someone is going to freak out on me and threaten to fire me again. So I still stress about it all, even though I still feel too exhausted to even care some of the time. I need to reinvest in me, but where do I start when there isn’t very much of me left to go around any more?
I like to say that trying to take care of my own emotional well being is like driving a car with a broken gas tank indicator. I don’t tend to know I’m low on emotional energy until I run out. Sometimes I hit bottom, and won’t even be able to tell what’s happening to me until I’ve had to stop and think about it. By then I can be pretty messed up. So I try to reboot my self care, start trying to read books for fun between calls instead of doing low quality homework because I can’t concentrate very well at work anyways, try to force away some of the urgent things in life so that I can just relax a while with my wife. Try to force away some of the stupid things in life that suck the energy away from me but give me little back. Take a few moments I’m getting dressed for the day to read something uplifting Try to spend more time romping with my kids. Life never stops, even if I wish I could take a vacation from it every once in a while. But for those few moments that I spend relaxing with my wife, reading something uplifting, or tickling my kids, I try to approach stillness that is on both my inside and my outside, even if its just for a few moments.
6 months ago