Three Septembers ago, in the space of 24 hours, I lost my mother, my three-year-old broke her elbow, and I miscarried our third child. It’s difficult to utter this string of events without a little chuckle, as in, Can you believe this could happen? Each occurrence hit like a tidal wave on the heels of the next, and it has taken me three years of busy escape to say—It hurts. I’m angry. I don’t understand. This is not what I wanted.
I barely had a chance to catch my breath from April when our family finally united north of the US-Mexico border. After more than a decade living as a divided family straddling the border, my husband received his permanent residency visa. The good news of that event was short-lived. No sooner did we settle in when wave upon wave came crashing over me.
Somewhere in the span of those six months between April and September, I stopped feeling and started doing. Grief didn’t crush me, it shored me up. I became secure in my busyness, a pace no one questioned as I blended into the tapestry of my surroundings. Busy is the new black.
The sum total of these events was greater than I could bear, but the thrum of life never missed a beat. Wounds that run deep are easier to fill with a little coffee, a little joke, a little something to get your mind off…some turn to bottles, pills, pillows, and others, like me, find a false sense of solace in busyness and, of course, levity.
It’s easier to choose distraction rather than healing. Busyness keeps grief at bay for a time. It’s often overlooked because the hurry and hustle rhythm of life is commonplace if you’re someone like me.
A great capacity to do is in the sequence of my genetic makeup next to green eyes and thick, unruly hair. To know my grandfather and my mother is to trace the origin of all three. Among the family members, we share these specific characteristics for better or worse.
Once, while leading a discussion among the community group my family and I are part of, I uttered, “We all possess a great capacity to do” and before the phrase slipped off my lips I realized that is absolutely not true. Not everyone feels the same urgency to perform, create or complete said task. But for those of us who know the nudging (or insistence) and can’t quell it, I want to say: I see you, I hear you, I know you. I am you.
“YOU MUST RUTHLESSLY ELIMINATE HURRY FROM YOUR LIFE.”
Embracing the fullness of life by cluttering it with constant input and constant output, results in a full life, which does not equate to a rich one. Finding an uncluttered moment, free of demands banging down my door is nearly impossible at this juncture in my life with three young children and a full-time job. Decluttering feels like yet another task to tackle. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve got it in me.
When the house is eating me alive, when the shoulds are clawing at my back, when expectations are rising and rotting within me, and when I’ve forgotten the sound of my own breath, I flit and whirr against my grain when deep down in me is a desire that barely burns brighter than a winking ember. I long to find the balance between passions and pursuits, to bring the may-dos and must-dos into equilibrium; to fashion a simpler life with plenty of margin.
Like my mom, my Achilles’ heel is a great capacity to do, which means my ability to simply be is an underdeveloped muscle. Because I’m more exacting, my expectations are often well beyond my reach. I’m hard on myself in my roles as wife and mother, and the shoulds take me down. Trouble is, I’m comparing myself to a woman who doesn’t exist, a legend without flaws, and she taunts me.
How she came to be and dwell in the corners of my mind is a combination of factors. My mom’s ability to tend to literally everything without seeming to miss a beat is my baseline for life and the outline of my legend. My friends’ stay-at-home moms whose minivans idled in the pickup line ready to shuttle us girls home to freshly baked cookies and snacks, also added shading and complexity to her form. Not to mention the constant bombardment of societal shoulds that set the bar so high, it is impossible not to be in a state of constantly striving. The glimmering hues of distraction add glitz and sparkle to the mundane drone of daily living that can only be sustained for a time.
After three years of whirlwind living, I pulled back in tatters in search of respite. My prayers grew in the quiet morning hours during early walks, where I sought to be still and allow grief to mingle with joy but not overpower it. Now, I rejoice in the blessed joy of having had a mother so dear that her loss caused me to grieve so deeply. Similarly, motherhood has taught me to nurture each of my children fiercely, love them unconditionally, and hold them loosely for they are each a gift that I am blessed to steward.
I gave into busyness. It’s simpler than grieving. Hoping to find solace, instead, I found supplements, exchanging one problem for another. What if we intentionally chose to do less in order to cultivate better outcomes? God grant me solace from my pursuits. Whether they are noble, necessary or needless, help me draw breath. That is the whisper of my soul.
This article originally appeared at EveryDayNatalie.com.