Tell me if this sounds familiar.
It's 8:00pm on a weeknight. The sink is full of dishes, the lunchbox hasn't been unpacked from daycare and there's a tiny sock off to the side of the playmat. The only sounds in the house are the hum of the baby monitor and the drip-drying of the washcloth in the bathtub that just wiped away a day's worth of germs from tiny hands and feet.
You sit alone on the couch, tired eyes barely watching the screen in front of you and you are so damn ready to check-out for the day. Except you're not done yet because before each day closes, you must prepare for the next. The bottles will be repacked, the lunches made and everything set by the door so that tomorrow you won't forget a thing during the chaotic morning rush.
When I was in my twenties, carefree and alone, my mother used to say that she couldn't wait for me to find my partner so that we could "get messy" together. I never fully understood what this meant until I finally met that person and as we started experiencing life together. We made moves, lost jobs, fought, made up and wandered on our way together. But for the most part, we managed a pretty nice balance in our routine together until we had a baby. And that's when the full catastrophe began.
When I was pregnant, I read the beautiful book "Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting" by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, and it was in this book that I learned about "the full catastrophe of life" as explained in the movie version of Zorba the Greek. I immediately fell in love with the concept because it speaks to what is so true about being a parent - the challenges, the pain and the can't-deal-with-you-right-now-but-love-you-so-much reality that comes with raising a child and trying to stay sane throughout the process.
Motherhood, in many ways, is a calculation made up of physical resources. We spend all of our time and energy during the day giving ourselves: to our partners, our children, our colleagues and to anyone else that will take. And what is leftover? That's for us - the one who quite often needs it the most but prioritizes it last.
But perhaps it is in these moments of full catastrophe living - when the bottles are dirty, the child refuses to go to sleep and we just need a minute to breathe - that we can gain wisdom and learn to grow ourselves. Of course there will be moments where we ask ourselves "how did I get here?" But to quote another line from Jon Kabat-Zinn, "wherever you go, there you are."
When we acknowledge that this is, in fact, our life - the one that we are living at this very moment - then we open ourselves up to possibility of learning from the trying and tiring moments. We come into the present and time stands still.
We can realize that our children can be wonderful teachers if we let them. We can begin to see where our value is most felt, and when we can give ourselves permission to phone it in. And mostly, we can better tap into ourselves and begin to understand what it is that we need to refresh and restore and make the most of that slice of the pie that we call our own.