This was going to be My Year.
For the first time in over eight years I was to have time for myself that didn't not require the Putting To Sleep of a Child. Free time! ME time!
For seven hours each week, all three of my children are in school. Seven HOURS! Imagine what I could accomplish in SEVEN hours!
I was going to do yoga four times a week.
I was going to broaden my dinner repertoire to include more and different recipes that my whole family was going to love.
I was going to meet friends for coffee and conversation.
I was going to catch up on the laundry.
I was going to read. Books. Lots of them.
I was going to drink a cup of coffee, straight through to the last drop, still hot.
I was going to write.
...not just on this little blog.
...not just on other blogs...
...but really write...the collection of stories that have been swirling around my brain and in my heart for the last two years.
But I'm finding that I don't, actually, have seven hours to myself. Not really.
I rarely drop Molly off at precisely 8:30 and, even if I do, I nearly always stay to chat with her teachers for a bit. (6 hours 45 minutes)
I signed up to be a volunteer in Max's kindergarten class during Guided Reading because kindergartners are the greatest kinds of human beings on the planet. (5 hours 45 minutes)
I also signed up to be a volunteer in Evan's art class because third graders are, well, um...also great? And art is super fun. But mostly because how the hell else am I going to know anything about anything that happens in third grade what with the whole Evan Is Less an Open Book and More a Locked Diary thing? (4 hours 45 minutes)
And, also, I signed up to be the Room Mom for both classes because ha ha ha ha ha! No seriously. Had I had a drink or two before Back to School Night or something because What? Who does that?! (3 hours)
So, basically, Tuesday is a total wash. There's still Thursday for the yoga and the cooking and the reading and the catching up with friends and the writing, right?!
Then we got a puppy. (Negative 1,000 hours)
This isn't the year I thought it would be for me, but it's okay. I love volunteering at school, I love this puppy (yup, more to come on this, but I'm smitten), and my friends understand because they're all just as busy or busier than me. The books will eventually get read, the dinners won't get eaten regardless of how long I've spent preparing them so I might as well just bake some more chicken, and the stories in my head and my heart can marinate a bit more before hitting the screen.
But you know what can't wait? What doesn't understand? What does need to happen Right Now and doesn't care that we have a new puppy?
Christmas used to happen during nap times, which are long gone. Or after the kids went to bed, which is now Puppy Time. Or while Sam played with oblivious little kids in the backyard while I made like an elf in the makeshift Santa's Workshop of our basement storage room...not anymore: they'd be on to us.
It was December 12 and I was Not Ready for Christmas. I know for most of the world, this would not be a problem. You still have 12 days, you're thinking, 13, really. But I'm not like most of the world. I am so Type A when it comes to Christmas that our Christmas Lists have lists and they live in Excel. I'm so Type A that I re-decorate the tree after the kids have had a first pass at it. (There are roughly 4,000 limbs on that tree, Molly. You can use more than the bottom 15.) I start baking and freezing Christmas cookies the week after Thanksgiving. My Christmas shopping is done early, save for some wiggle-room in the budget for last-minute, magic-making, wish-fulfillment. Presents are wrapped, little by little, over the course of December and I coast into the holiday, organized, prepared, and as stress-free as a Type A introvert can be leading up to the Biggest Holiday of the Year.
At least, that's how it usually goes.
And I needed to get back to that serene place, in which I felt festive and fun rather than stressed and short-fused.
So I did what I always do when I reach my max...I demanded some alone time.
I sent Sam and the kids and the puppy away for a day. I sent them off with packed lunches, snacks for days (just in case), and an alibi: I have some writing to do, kids, so go visit your Grandmother and Grandpop with Daddy!
I had about six hours. That's it. But it was enough.
I went to the grocery store.
I baked a batch of molasses-ginger cookies.
I drank a cup of coffee in one sitting.
I finished painting the rainbow fairy peg dolls for Molly's stocking.
I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
I ate lunch while sitting.
I watched Love Actually.
I wrapped ALL the Christmas presents.
I assembled the one Christmas present (a million-piece Playmobil set, of course) that had a shipping label stuck directly to the box, thus blowing the whole damn made-in-an-elfin-workshop charade. (Thanks for nothin', Zulily.)
I made the dough for Sunday's sugar-cookie decorating extravaganza.
And then...I waited around for my family to come home.
Six hours. It was all I needed.
I can breathe again. I'm ready for Christmas.
At least...I would be if it wasn't 75 degrees outside.
When I get overwhelmed, when I feel like I can't breathe and I can't possibly accomplish the Something that needs to be accomplished, I often find that the solution can be found in me running away from or sending away my family.
It's not that they're the problem...it's me. It's me needing space and solitude (and, when it comes to Christmas, secrecy). I take my space, I remember to inhale fully, and, when the Something is Done and we are again reunited, it feels good to have missed my family. And to have checked something off one of my Lists.