I can’t put my finger on it. Whether it’s the stifling heat, or the fact that my third kid is now a walking toddler (who is everywhere), or maybe just the restlessness of all the children combined, this summer has felt harder than summers of the past. My to-do list is a fucking mile long and I really couldn’t care less. I’ve just been putting everything off and spending time reading.
Dinners get made, lunches get prepped, children get carted to their activities, but I’m not really present. I’m kind of on auto-pilot. “Fake it till you make it,” plays over in my head like a cassette single. Rewinding at the punctuation mark and going back to the beginning. I’ve been a parent for 10 years; if I haven’t figured this shit out now, I wonder if I ever will.
Every day is the same. My youngest and I visit the supermarket just to get out of the house. He’s too young for the playground, it’s too hot for the park, the beach is just too much work. Maybe I’m just lazy? Could be. Sometimes, times like today, I feel completely stuck. And I hate that. I have everything in the world I need and most certainly everything in the world I want, but the fact that I still want more, something else, something I can’t put my finger on, something extraordinary—really pisses me off. The funk has made its way into my head.
The funk sucks.
On today’s grocery store visit I pick out my necessities, get the kid a free cookie, and make my way to the checkout line. There are a mother and her three kids in front of me on line. It’s like looking in a mirror at the what the hell? that is my life right now. I admire her adorable children, notice the open container of ice pops in her cart and her two-year-old clutching a red one like it is the greatest thing on Earth. I watch her sons try to get her to buy them some strategically placed checkout line candy, or a Redbox video. She shoos them away just as I would my boys.
I like her style. She must feel the weight of my stare; we strike up a conversation. Seems we have a lot more in common than just kids and proximity. She’s nice. She’s friendly. She, like me, looks overwhelmed and outnumbered. She is the first adult I have spoken to today. She is the first person in a week that didn’t need anything from me.
And I really need that. I need that more than I had been willing to admit to myself.
The clerk has screwed up something with her purchase, bread that was supposed to be BOGO but isn’t ringing up as such. She keeps apologizing profusely that the whole thing is taking so much time. I don’t have the balls to mention the funk, or that this random situation is tantamount to having drinks with girlfriends at this point in my day. “Take as long as you fucking need,” I think to myself.
When I leave the store, the funk is still there. I’m still looking for something I can’t put a finger on, something I can’t yet identify and something that I hope will get me to the something else. The something else that I hope will be extraordinary. But I do feel better, and better is a start. Maybe extraordinary is just something other than the funk? Whatever it is, it’s something beyond where I currently am. Something that isn’t measured in poopy diapers, or screen time, or basketball practices, or cleaning the lint out of little belly buttons.
Maybe it’s something just for me. That I don’t have to share. Something that is just mine.
Like a conversation with a stranger when I’m next in line.