I’ve started this blog post three times. Each time, Amelia, one of my three dogs, shoves her nose under my elbow and nudges my arm, asking for attention. Each time, my fingers lose their space on the keyboard; I backspace and start over. One of those times, my puppy, Rose, joins in, but in her poor “puppy” form, she makes the mistake of grabbing my hand in her mouth (albeit gently), resulting in a reprimand.
They give up, bored, and curl up on their beds across the room. I’m granted a moment to myself, and I keep typing.
This week, I forgot two loads of laundry in my washer…for four days. The chicken coop needs to be cleaned. My dogs have smelled “wet” for longer than I care to remember…because everything outside has been wet for over a week. Hay nets need to be filled tomorrow. I cannot keep the floor clean of paw prints. I have piles of grading to work through. And, just for shits and giggles, one of my horses injured himself on Friday, resulting in a day off of work waiting on the emergency vet.
I’d say things are crazy right now, but in my experience, this is sort of just how life works. You get behind; you catch up. You get your shit together; something unexpected happens. I guess that means that crazy is normal…or normal is crazy? Or there is no such thing as normal at all?
I’ve read books about having “balance” in life. It’s such a fantastic idea: this juggling of priorities and responsibilities so that you’re always on top of things. The ringmaster of your life.
But has anyone else noticed that the idea of “balance” usually comes hand-in-hand with an undue number of circus metaphors? Anyone else think that’s maybe because it’s an idea that is playing at a fantasy?
My life feels like a circus sometimes, but not a well-managed, three ring circus… a shady roadside circus. The animals aren’t behaving; the fire is getting a little too close to the tent, and the clowns don’t all fit in the car…and who the fuck let all of those creepy clowns in here anyway?
Sometimes though, my life feels maybe a bit more like a petting zoo. The creatures are running things. I am getting low on hay, and I need to clean the stalls. And someone left a gate open. Actually, that one isn’t a so much a metaphor…
In the past week, three of my friends have told me about their respective circuses. Their lack of balance. Their feelings of guilt and shame for not being the perfect ringmaster. They worry that they aren’t “enough”: enough parent, enough partner, enough employee, enough friend. One felt guilty that her time at the gym took time away from her kids. One felt like time for herself took excessive time from her relationship. One felt that her time at work wasn’t enough, that she should be spending time outside of office hours attending work functions. One of my friends even voiced concern that she “didn’t bake enough and that she probably should.”
I listened to each of them, and I said all of the right, true things. “You can’t take care of anyone or anything else if you don’t take care of yourself.” “You are being too hard on yourself.” “You are doing great.” These are things I have to tell myself ALL THE TIME, so I’m getting good at saying them. One day, I might even get good at hearing them.
Over the last few years, I’ve added a mantra to my ever-lengthening list of mantras. I’m beginning to think that it might be the secret to life: “The stalls won’t always be clean…and that’s ok.”
Maybe you have stalls (in which case it works on two levels) or maybe you don’t. But what I mean is this: things will never be perfect, and the list of things to do will never be completely done. Try as you might, you’re never going to get all of your figurative (or literal) shit cleaned up. And things are probably going to be fine anyway.
I should have graded papers on Sunday, but I went to spend time with a friend and her kids instead. We made cookie bars. I let her eight year old crack the egg for the batter. We sat on the floor eating warm cookie bars with chocolate ice cream while that same eight year old serenaded us with “Fight Song,” and her mama and I sipped limoncello-spiked, mango-lemonade. I wasted time…balance and priorities and juggling be damned. I laughed. I smiled. I gave myself a break and accepted that some papers were going ungraded for now…oh, and I didn’t clean my stalls up, either.
It was good enough. I was good enough.
Embrace the circus, honey. We all have one, and those clowns aren’t listening to anyone.