It’s late afternoon on a Friday and I’m pacing the floor downstairs. Brow furrowed, jaw clenched, heels pressing firmly into the soft wood floors that cover the lower level of our home as I search for something. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’m looking for . . . something.
Something to do, something to prepare for, something, or someone that requires my full attention. I’ve had a week of days packed with back-to-back meetings sandwiched in between classes to teach at the studio, plus kids to ferry to and from school, care, or practice. I’ve not had the time to sit down and breathe and process outside of the few short minutes each night when I slip between the soft sheets of our bed, prop myself up on my pillows and tell myself that this time I’ll be able to read at least one full article before I fall asleep. I never do, ever. Usually I drift off with my phone still in my hands, the light of the screen shining brightly on the puffy drooping lids of my ever tired eyes.
Now home for the day I can’t shake the feeling that I’m supposed to be somewhere and I’m going to be late. It’s exactly like that feeling I got every time I’d finish a semester in college. The dark presence of my embodied guilt following me into every room, sitting with me in my chair and gently tapping my shoulder to remind me — “not finished, not finished, not finished.”
This is how I feel now, not finished. Uneasy and worried.
After checking my calendar at least a dozen times, making a few laps around the ground floor and nervously checking my inbox for more emails I won’t actually reply to for another three days I glance at my husband. He’s sitting with such a relative ease on the couch as he wraps up his work day. It’s irritating, actually, how calm he looks even when I know he’s holding so much on his own plate.
I walk to the door, deciding I will put my energy into picking up the baby from daycare right exactly now and blurt — “I can’t shake the feeling that I’m supposed to be somewhere soon.”
“Honey,” he says gently, pausing his hands on the keyboard and making eye contact with me. I gulp, because eye contact means serious, and serious means I should listen, and “OH MY GOD WHAT DID I FORGET?”
“That’s anxiety. That feeling of unsettledness? That’s just anxiety.”
I respond with a glare. A Michelle glare, actually. Lips pursed, head slightly cocked, shoulders tight, one eye closed slightly more than the other. A glare that pulses hot and angry with “Fuck you.” Fuck you for thinking you know. Fuck you for your certainty. Fuck you for daring to label what I’m feeling. Fuck you for probably maybe being right.
His eyes soften and he repeats himself, I think. I’m so mad I can barely hear him, to be honest. I pause, drop my shoulders away from my ears and take a breath. He disarms me, my husband. He has a way of putting out my flames so quickly I don’t even notice it. This actually just makes me more agitated with myself later, but here we are anyway in our cycle.
“Okay,” I say with quiet resignation. “Okay.”
I hate this. I hate this feeling. I hate this pattern. I hate that I experience it every single day.
Why can’t I switch off like he can? Why do I feel guilty and useless when I sit down? Why do all of the dishes have to be done, the kitchen clean, the toys put away, the laundry switched out, the lunches packed, the kids fed, bathed, and tucked in, calendars reviewed and updated, to-dos refreshed and reprogrammed into the week, all the red dots on my phone attended to, bank accounts checked, business revenue statistics analyzed, time sensitive emails responded to, and at least an hour of studio administrative tasks completed before I can just hit PAUSE for 30 minutes and collect myself?
Is this just modern day motherhood? Is it the mental load, as Emma describes it? Is it the manifestation of my lifelong feeling of inadequacy and rejection? Is it because I lacked consistent emotionally safe spaces to be myself and have coped with overachievement, overcommitment, and an unhealthy attraction to feeling needed?
Is all of that just anxiety created by three plus decades of conditioning?
I’ve got short answers and long answers and at least a half a dozen books on my nightstand telling me why. I’ve got a therapist helping me work on healing old traumas and reprogramming my patterns of response. I’ve got yoga, and self care practices, and friends and mentors who are there to hold me when I need to be held. I have a partner who sees me when I’m spinning and stays. I have kids who fill me with a loving sense of purpose. I have community, and fulfilling work, an an abundance of good things in my life. I have a toolkit. I have resources, and access, and self efficacy, and a building sense of self advocacy.
I am not alone, and still I struggle.
This awareness and the growing questions that run true alongside it are very present for me right now. It is from this place of inquiry that I am operating and from where I’ll be sharing as I unpack, uncover, and reveal what I’m learning.
I am not alone, and neither are you.
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