I’m pretty sure that within 15-minutes of posting last week’s cake recipe, in which I shared how nicely our summer was going, I had a complete meltdown, needing to leave Harry with the boys and take a walk. I had written a paragraph for that post about the part of summer that’s been hard to swallow, but I removed it. It wasn’t so tough at the moment and I thought it was ending that day anyway. Therefore, it felt superfluous and got the ax. Well, apparently it really wanted to be published because now I’m sharing. For my own sake, of course.
Harry works contract jobs as a web developer. He also creates his own stuff on the side, like Jetrecord and SleepSleep. (He’s an amazingly brilliant guy, constantly bubbling with new ideas.) We deliberately chose the risks of this job, with a safety net in place, because we thought it best suited who he is and we treasured the flexibility it gave our family. However, the stability of contract life leaves something to be desired. If this feels like deja-vu, you’re right. I’ve written about my mental fallout during life between contracts before.
Yes. Here we are again. His job completed the end of June, another was verbally agreed to start ten days ago. Then the start date moved back a week, then a month. Another one was verbally agreed to. That pay dropped dramatically, as did the contract length. Now it’s all up in the air.
Every time we go through this I weather the in-between a little longer, a little stronger. I try really hard to remain optimistic at the beginning. This time, I felt fine(ish) until the first start date came and went. I started to get more stressed at that point, and honestly, completely lost it by the end of a few rounds of the back and forth. These uncertain periods are never easy for my anxious mind. I rarely just go with the flow.
The Demands and Capacities Model for mental health rings true yet again for me. I think I held on as long as I did because I had a deeper reservoir this summer. Everything else was feeling really great- I liked the summer rhythm with the boys, I felt intense freedom without homeschooling to think about, I was regularly getting up early to exercise (something I’ve battled mentally and been unsuccessful with for months), we had some babysitting freedom, and I was often able to work in the garden and kitchen without feeling frantic. I can shred zucchini and cut basil like a madwoman, I tell you! But I’d rather linger. There’s been more play. For all of us. For me, with food. For the boys, with waterguns and slip n’ slides.
Apparently over a week’s time, my reservoir turned into a boiling cauldron. I wasn’t even aware that I was so on the brink. I picked Charlie up from camp (Lego Camp! Jedi Engineering Lego Camp! My boy has been gone 9-4 all week with strangers and LOVES it. Yay for Ewok villages and Death Star destruction!). I was proud of myself because we were stopping at a friend’s before going home and I thought ahead enough to make him a favorite snack of homemade granola, yogurt and berries for the car. I knew he’d be thrilled. Within minutes of being back in his presence, I made him feel horrible for an accident. Instead of it being a nurturing moment for us to reconnect, I basically shamed him. I didn’t call him a bad kid or stupid, but I made it seem like I thought his behavior was purposeful, which I know it wasn’t. I hate even writing that, but it’s true. I’m embarrassed by it. While he gobbled down that damn delicious granola, I was mean. It certainly wasn’t what I envisioned for that time.
We got home and I felt like shit. I wanted to disappear. I hadn’t apologized to Charlie yet. In our bedroom Harry told me more bad news on the job front while the boys watched Dora in the family room. (“So, this would only last six weeks instead of three months.” “¡RÁPIDO! ¡MÁS RÁPIDO!” “And they don’t want to pay [anything close to my normal wage].” “SWIPER, NO SWIPING!”). I asked to be alone in our bedroom. My dear man closed the door and returned with a beer for me, took care of dinner for the boys and made them giggle like crazy with his silly stories. All while I escaped with a beer, a book and the book of faces.
After this little breathing time I gathered up enough courage to speak my shame to Harry, telling him how I treated Charlie, and then even more to apologize to Charlie. He was so brave. He told me I hurt his feelings, but quickly entered my arms and lap, accepting my prolific explanation of why it wasn’t ok for me to treat him that way and that I was very sorry. We read two chapters of Willy Wonka together, snuggling the whole time. I am deeply grateful for the forgiveness and love of my little boy.
At the end of last night, a dear friend kindly reminded me that it’s alright to check out every once in awhile. I needed that so much. I can easily give grace to others for those moments while still struggling to give it to myself. It’s a shift in thinking for me that being upset and anxious by this process isn’t about my reservoir being too shallow, or some other deep character flaw that I need to beat into submission. I hit a wall. And that’s alright. Apparently, I still need to get better at accepting this whole being human thing. Having limits and all, sharing my needs. It’s a time to walk into what I already know to be true. I need to immediately gather my circle, speak my fears, ask for help. Of course, I still must keep filling my reservoir, avoiding drought if possible. It’s just that sometimes even that doesn’t prevent those very waters from erupting like geysers.
Our car started to break down this morning on the way to camp. Thankfully, we got Charlie there and the car to the shop without a tow truck. I was upset and almost cried, but after a few calls, I think I’m doing alright. I just might even be getting to a place of finding this all somewhat funny. At least for an hour or two. It’s probably because Miles has a babysitter today.