My lawn and I have a lot in common. We both have struggled over the past several years, and we both require a lot of maintenance to thrive.
When we first moved into this home that we fully renovated on the inside, there was no lawn. There were dozens – hundreds? – of baby oak trees, packed clay soil, and lots of trash leftover from the hoarders who lived here previously. There was a big shed right where we wanted the kids to be able to play.
It took a while to find someone to take down the shed for free, and they used a chainsaw so the lawn was peppered with yet more trash, tiny scraps of blue vinyl siding.
At first, we tried playing on mulch, but it wasn’t super for soccer. Finally, more than a year after we moved in, we planted grass seed in the fall, and in the spring, we had some grass.
But it never did well. The soil hadn’t been amended, and the weeds were much more prolific than the grass. And even then, play was dusty.
Plus, after each rain, more trash would magically surface. Pens, small piece of glass, plastic bags. (Who buries plastic bags?) You name it, it somehow rose up, threatening bare feet.
Even though the concept of sod didn’t fit with my commitment to environmental sustainability, after we’d passed our fourth anniversary in the home, I started to agree a that it might be worth exploring.
So we did it about a month ago. I cringed at how much money it cost. And, what’s more, it requires a lot of effort, for long after it’s installed. The hope is that eventually, the grass will be healthy enough that it can do well as long as there’s no scorching drought and as long as we keep acorn sprouts from taking hold.
But right now, this first month living with the sod, we have to baby it. We have to water it, moving sprinklers a half dozen times over two hours or so, nearly every day. Blow – not rake! – the leaves off it. Water it again. Blow the leaves again. Pick out hundreds of sprouting acorns and toss them ten feet into the woods.
Water. Blow. Hope. Repeat.
I, too, have felt like a newly sodded lawn, and for a long time. Although some aspects of my health have gotten better, I can’t go dry for too long or I’m going to shrivel up.
For me, going dry means missing the key pieces of “medicine” that I need like the lawn needs water and the breath of the leaf blower.
I need to get good sleep and to wake up before the rest of the family so I can center: meditate and do yoga, get some writing done, and a few days a week, exercise on the elliptical machine in our basement.
I need to be able to take a few walks a week.
I need to eat three solid meals with homemade, safe ingredients, and I need mealtimes to be without strife or significant distraction.
I need my kids to go to school each day so that I can work toward making my website turn into an actual business, so I can work on volunteer projects that I care about that contribute to the health and wellbeing of my children and other children in the county, and so that I can manage a household and the health of the family.
Those things are my sprinkler soakings. They are necessary. Not every lawn or every needs all those perfect conditions, and not every person needs them, but I do, or things get ugly.
This month, things have been ugly. Out of the ten days of school from Halloween to Veterans day, my kids were home for two of them for holidays and three of them for illness. So that makes five out of ten days at home, usually with my disrupted sleep the night before and no morning grounding or any opportunity to make it up later in the day.
Another day, I spent five hours at school running an apple tasting. Another day I spent the morning cleaning and prepping for people to clean my house – which I hardly ever do because it costs too much and rarely is worth it – in preparation for an in-law visiting.
So that left three days in the space of two weeks that I was able to do anything that fed my soul or to do anything that required more than a few ounces of concentration.
And in that time, I had to deal with some really whiny kids. It’s hard to know what has a physical origin and what is about something else. But there have more been run-of-the-mill challenging moments than usual, and then there have also been outbursts to rival any I’ve seen before. It’s no fun to literally have to drag a child kicking and screaming to the car.
And I haven’t even gotten to the election yet. Clearly that has been a huge factor in my being off-balance. The fear of the hatred and intimidation to come, the possible damage to the planet over the next four years (please don’t even talk of eight) – those were bad enough to contemplate in the abstract. But it’s already started, the “make America white again” “Trump nation” harassment, graffiti, vitriol. It’s soul-crushing.
While it’s heartening to see progressive folks get mobilized and make their commitments to taking action toward creating a climate of love and safety, it also brings up my own feelings of inadequacy because I just don’t know how much I really have to give, how far my energy will go.
That worry about what I have in the tank is always there.
My son left this morning on a one-day overnight trip with school, something I’ve been looking forward to for him for a long time. I loved the week I spent at a camp with my school when I was in fifth grade, and I spent my college sophomore spring teaching at an environmental school where kids came for the week to learn. I’m so glad he at least gets this overnight, in such a beautiful place.
I would have loved to have gone on the trip with him as a chaperone, but I knew it would be too much for me. It took me more than a week to recover from going with his class to Jamestown last year. Even though I would have loved being outdoors and getting to see my son experience this year’s overnight, with the likely loss of sleep and the food and the stress of being “on” with 50 kids around, I knew I just couldn’t hack it. I would have been toast for the next month, I worried.
And I was mostly okay with that decision. Oxygen mask first and all that. My son had previously slept away from parents, out in a tent – during thunderstorms! – four nights during two years of a small summer camp. I had gone on almost all his field trips. I was confident could handle this without me.
Until he started flipping out about it. The meltdowns in the past two weeks have really had my head spinning. I’m aware of a lot of what I wish I could be doing as a parent and haven’t gotten it together to do, but now I’m questioning even more. It’s exhausting. And, as someone who has grown up haunted by her mother’s expressed hope that I don’t end up sharing her experience losing a son to suicide, it’s kind of frightening.
And it would be even scary in the best of times, but it’s especially unsettling in light of the election and all mental & physical check boxes that didn’t get checked in the past two weeks.
So guess who else lost it yesterday? Yours truly. After it happened and I thought about the deficit I was already running and the added stress I always feel when hosting an in-law, it shouldn’t have really been a surprise. In fact, I’d thought I should make myself scarce during at least part of the visit. I asked two friends if they might possibly be out of town and I could spend some time at their house but didn’t hear back. There’s no money for a hotel. (Heck, there wasn’t money for sod and there isn’t money for all the healthcare & supplements, either!)
So I didn’t make a plan to get out. And even if I’d gone into the weekend full of energy and not reeling from the election, my son’s antics and then his acute ear pain on Friday night that took us to urgent care kind of sealed the deal. I didn’t have it in me to disappear and go be productive for any significant length of time. There was my son’s anxiety to deal with and the trip to pack for, assuming he wouldn’t pitch a fit and refuse to go as he threatened to do.
But I should have done something to get away. While my husband was outside watering the lawn, I should have gone and watered myself. Taken a walk. Gone to the opening of an art exhibit about modern motherhood. Gone to a yoga class. Used some essential oils on myself instead of just the ones for the kids’ health. Anything probably would have helped, but I just didn’t have it in me to invent it.
and a powerful sermon. So that was something, except that I sort of fell asleep during the sermon, I was so exhausted. And before, during and after it, I cried. A lot.
And then, back at home, I tried to process what was going on with my son and made a comment that I felt was dismissed as though not worth considering. And since I’ve made crystal clear of late that I’m not going to accept being dismissed and since my husband has agreed to call him on it when I feel like I am, I did.
But then that was described as interrupting and inciting an argument. I became this unreasonable person who isn’t capable of having a civil conversation. Once I was told “You don’t want to listen” by my husband and his relative, I was done.
I feel like all I do is listen in one way or another. To my body. To my kids. To my husband, sometimes having to prod him with questions so he will tell me what he’s actually thinking instead of getting mad that I don’t understand what I don’t know.
I feel like I am always taking the pulse and trying to figure things out. I never don’t want to know. I’m not obsessed with being right. If anything, I’m obsessed that I’m getting it wrong, and the possible repercussions feel really scary.
I want to be able to have a conversation and share ideas and not have people assume I’m shutting them out. It was especially challenging for two of them to be nodding together and shaking their heads at me when I had minutes before been openly sharing how upset and concerned and dumbfounded and confused I was.
When I’ve been “watered,” things frequently go more okay than not. If I’ve meditated or done a solid yoga practice or listened to some uplifting music or had the chance to be creative in the past week, I can and do listen with empathy and patience. As long as I’m getting some of my boxes checked off, I think I’m a pretty reasonable person.
But when I feel tapped out and burdened with responsibility and exhausted and dismissed, it’s not pretty. And on a day when I had already shed more tears than I care to count and was facing the uncertainty how to deal with whatever was bothering my son now – and with what might be years of stuff bothering him as he gets closer to being a teen – I got mad. And loud.
I don’t really know how to recover now. At least the kids weren’t inside to hear it. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and am sorry that that probably happened.
It’s not like no one else in my life has ever said I talk too much or that I’m annoying or overwhelming. I know I am not everyone’s cup of tea.
But I also know that it’s impossible to please everyone. I’m working on stuff from a lot of directions, and enough people outside my home have been supportive of me to make me feel like I am generally okay.
I am not above apologizing for actions that hurt others, but I am done with shame, and I am done apologizing for who I am and what my needs are. I am not a monster. I try really hard. I work my ass off to try to feel decent and to model being decent. I do not say nasty shit about people or hurt other people or tell people I don’t care or make fun of their hopes, dreams or ambitions.
I just am a human who needs a boatload of watering, and if I don’t get it, I’m likely to be a dry, brittle, dusty mess. At least in some spots.