The man at the front desk must have wondered what my story was--a woman in her mid-thirties with bags under her eyes so big you could fit your keys in them, checking into a hotel at 1:30 in the afternoon by herself. Surely they do that, guess people's stories. I know I would. Worst case scenario, I would have pegged me as an abused woman looking for a safe place until I figured out the next step. Best case, I was an intriguing writer, looking for solace to write my next piece. I wouldn't have pegged me for what I was: an exhausted mama who could hardly string a sentence together she was so tired.
For months, I'd rearranged and organized and planned to be out of town for a conference for three days. My mom would drive in from a few hours away to help with the kids since Phil was working part of the time, I'd cooked meals ahead of time to make it easy for everyone, and I'd spent at least an hour typing up specifics of childcare to make a smooth transition. For about six weeks leading up to this trip, nothing has felt easy. We've had sick kids and I've been sick and had weird ailments and one child has genuine nighttime fears and the other child is cutting five teeth at once and we're all sleep-deprived in a way I could only compare to having an infant. Even the weather tried to keep me from going (my mom wasn't sure if she'd be snowed in or not), but the stars aligned and we had a window where it looked like I could go and all the details would fall into place.
Until 4:00 a.m. on the morning I was supposed to leave. Moo woke with his first ever ear infection, which meant I needed to take him to the doctor, which meant I wasn't going to make it to the conference on time. No problem; I'd just get there late. But then came the vomit in the car seat on the way home from the doctor. Thank God my mom was there to help watch Noodle while I cleaned the boy and every other surface of my house and car. With a tearful goodbye, I sent Mom home, grateful for her coming but not wanting to get her sick. My heart sunk a little, but I could still leave the following morning when Phil got home and make the second half.
But with one child waking from a fever all night and another screaming from teething pain, I got a grand total of three hours of sleep last night. Going to that conference wasn't looking likely anymore; I wasn't even awake enough to safely be behind a wheel.
My heart sank. A lot. All that planning and orchestrating--for what? Obviously, sick kids are worth missing something for--it wasn't that. It was that I felt like I'd done all this work and spent all this time on something that would have no fruit--or rotten fruit, whichever analogy you want. I wanted to know why this was all happening; it just didn't seem fair. And really practically, I just needed some sleep and a break from being needed at all hours of the day and night. I'd held on for weeks, but I was about to break.
It wasn't long before Phil suggested that I get a hotel in town for the afternoon and all night while he watched the kids. The thought thrilled me but was quickly met with guilt: I can't leave the kids. I can't leave him with sick kids. That's so indulgent of me. But he wouldn't have it, and as I began to wrap my head around the reality of so many hours to myself to do whatever its was that was life-giving, my heart lightened rather than sunk. So I was sent away with a kiss, leaving the kids in the most able hands of their daddy and looking at a day and night to myself. I don't think I've had this much time to just to myself since I had kids.
As an introvert, I know time by myself and away is vital for me, but I didn't realize just how "by myself" I needed to be, and for how long sometimes. My tendency is to take alone time and be productive with it or invite others into it rather than protect it; I've fooled myself into thinking that protecting it is selfish, and while it can be, it hasn't been yet.
So I resisted being productive (working out, running errands) and opted for the harder discipline: pulling away, being quiet, being totally and completely alone. I almost didn't go to Starbucks for coffee and writing because I didn't want to leave the cocoon, but I figured it might not be good for me to be in a hotel room for 18 straight hours (and love it).
I took a shower so stingy hot and long that my skin pinked and pruned.
I ate lunch and dinner in bed and didn't have to make or clean up after it.
I took a perfect nap.
I binge-watched Jimmy Fallon and SNL on breaks from writing.
Because I wrote. For hours. It was like electricity.
I blocked out fantom cries and soaked in silence; I barely talked.
And my legs haven't been this smooth in a month.
I feel taken care of and rested and a little bit more human. This is absolutely the best gift anyone has ever given me, ever. There's a whole other spiritual side to this story, but I'll have to share that later because this day began 17 hours ago and it's time for this tired mama to sleep through the night.