The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I leave in the morning for my annual trek to the AWP Conference, this year in Boston.  I’m leaving with my homework done for this week, a packet submitted for the program, “spring break” for school waiting after the trip, four manuscripts formatted and sent to print in February, a grant written and almost submitted, all of the laundry in the house done, dishes washed, fridge stocked, living room and dining room vacuumed and clean, and all of my children healthy.  I’ve got my son home from Akron Children’s Hospital after discovering a FREAKING KIDNEY STONE on Saturday.  A KIDNEY STONE.  In a FIVE YEAR OLD.  Why, Universe, Why?

I’ve also finished several glasses of wine.

My husband is supposed to fly in tonight from Baltimore to Cleveland, but it’s delayed, hopefully not cancelled.  I need to leave the house at 5 a.m. to go to Boston from Cleveland.  If he’s cancelled, he’s arranged for a friend to come over to be with the kids so I can leave.  Which is helpful.  At least there’s a contingency plan.

My eye won’t stop twitching.  It’s been doing it for weeks now, and it’s really starting to drive me nuts.  I feel a little bit like Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated, holding my eye lid up with my finger all day.

I need this trip, even though it is work and I have about fifteen different responsibilities while I’m there, I need this trip to try to regain some sanity, to try to slow down for just a second and not feel guilty for not doing something I should be doing.  Like right now, I should be putting the clean clothes away.  I should be sweeping the kitchen floor.  I should be reading through the school newsletter so that I know what’s going on with Lydia’s class.  I should know something about what’s going on in my kids’ school lives.  I shouldn’t be blogging.  I shouldn’t be whining.  I should just get over it, suck it up, like I’ve been doing, and stop making such a big deal out of it because it isn’t a big deal, right, right?! RIGHT!?

Only I’m so tired.  I can’t sleep, though, because if I sleep I’ll dream about flies hatching from underneath my fingernails, like last night.  If I sleep, I’ll miss my alarm and miss my plane.  If I try to go to sleep before I’m thoroughly worn out I will lie there and catalog whatever it is that is left to do on my to-do list that I’m ill prepared for or certain to forget about in the morning.  Better to Google, “How to know when you’re having a nervous breakdown.”  Better to watch Harry Potter #3 and drink another glass of wine and eat another piece of dark chocolate.

I want to quit everything.  I want to quit, to quit, to quit, burrow under my blankets and stay there until the Universe remembers that I am its center and it should do exactly as I tell it to, like we’ve discussed several times before, but noooooo, the Universe ignores me and does whatever the heck it wants.

I didn’t work today because of the whole five-year-old-in-the-hospital-for-freaking-kidney-stones episode, which actually allowed me the space and time to reassemble the house that exploded on Saturday with unfolded/crumpled clothing and dirty dishes from Saturday from the dinner I made but didn’t eat because of the kidney-stone-episode.

Let me pause in my ridiculous four-year-old tantrum that I’m throwing to tell you how incredibly grateful I am for so many friends and family members who came to the rescue with prayers and help with kiddos this weekend.  I don’t know what I would have done without you.  Really.

And that’s what it might boil down to, right there, that’s what this all distills down to.  I know I’m not alone, but I feel so alone.  I don’t want to ask for help because I’m always asking for help, but if I don’t ask for help my eye twitches more and my heart starts to race and my hands start to shake and I start bawling my eyes out like I’m doing right now sitting in my kitchen sobbing like a four-year-old that’s denied his ice cream cone.  I feel guilty for asking for help because I should be able to DO THIS, it isn’t that hard, what’s so hard about working and taking care of your kids and doing a little reading and writing here and there?  What’s the big deal?  Why can’t I keep it together?

I don’t know what to give up or let go in order to regain some semblance of sanity.  And because I don’t know what to give up, I want to quit it all, to say goodbye to work and to school, to retreat into my house and leave only to get my kids off to their respective schools, buy groceries, and go to yoga when I can because I need someone to remind me to breathe.  

But, like I’ve said a thousand times before on this blog, I am not a four-year-old who has been denied an ice cream cone.  I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am a faithful employee.  I believe in my work and my family and my marriage and my God and my writing, and I know what I do is good and right, and I need to keep doing it, even though right now I’d like to curl into the cave.  This is what we do.  We keep on going.  It’s only one really, really, really, long season.  It has to end sometime.

So, *deep sigh* I will finish this post, switch the last load of laundry, refill my wine glass, turn on something light and funny, or Harry Potter #3, and stop thinking for a while.  Whatever I forgot to pack can be purchased in Boston.  They actually have stores there, so no big thing.  And, if I do miss my alarm and miss my flight, hey, guess what, they fly more than one airplane to Boston.  Perhaps the hardest thing about this mini-mental-breakdown season of my life is that I know it isn’t futile.  I know there’s hope and an answer to the busyness, and I know that part of my problem is pride–I am proud of keeping this life balanced precariously on the edge of sanity.  Look at me, I’m doing it, I’m surviving!  But I don’t want to just survive.  I want to thrive.  To live a life of contentment, as recommended by the good ol’ Solomon in Ecclesiastes:

“Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.  Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head.  Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.  I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.  Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them” (9:7-12)

Perhaps the only real crisis will be if I don’t hurry up and refill this wine glass.

Tomorrow is a new day with its own worries, and thank God, thank GOD, THANK GOD His mercies are new every morning.  He is faithful, even if his faithfulness appears in my mind like Trace Adkins shaking his head and singing, “You’re gonna miss this, you’re gonna want this back, you’re gonna wish these days, hadn’t gone quite so fast, these are the good times, take a good look around, you may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.”  I am grateful for the myriad ways He has been merciful.  God, not Trace.  Although maybe Trace Adkins is also merciful, I don’t know.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

3 thoughts on “The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

  1. Love this post. We were also praying for Elvis when we got word, so glad he is home. As for the rest of it- I am so glad I'm not the only mom/wife/worker who has the 4-year old tantrums:) I understood so much of how you described life right now! And I don't think I'm near as busy as you are- but I still had a glass of wine today, too;-)


  2. I feel like I could've written this post. At least, I KNOW I have lived it. While I don't “hoorah” at another mother/writer going through the insanity, I am thankful for one that takes the time (and has the courage) to write it down. It might give me the courage to try and do the same instead of just marking things off a to-do list.
    Hope things are going well and you are enjoying AWP!


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