This time of year, days fly by like panicked geese trying to outdistance a snowstorm. One minute you’re flopped on the couch thinking, “I’ll just watch TV for twenty minutes, Christmas isn’t for another six weeks yet,” the next you’re staring in horror at the calendar, realizing you still haven’t taken the kids’ Christmas photo or done up your cards or mailed your sister’s present or taken down the last of the Hallowe’en decorations and holy crap where did we put all the freaking snow brushes?
As the holiday tasks pile up on top of all my regular domestic chores, I tend to fight feelings of rising panic by using self-talk. You know, helpful cognitive-therapy-type stuff like:
Kim, just do one bloody thing at a time.
Kim, focus. FOCUS! Right now you are doing the dishes. Leave the Christmas cards alone. And Facebook. And - ooh, was that your phone?
Kim, the Baileys is in the liquor cabinet. Go and drink some.
On Mondays I try to do as much domestic goddess stuff as possible so that I can free up my other sans kids days for writing, and my nights for Christmassy things. I’m one of those people who has five lists going on any given day; I’m convinced that without these lists, my head would explode. Grocery lists, Christmas gift lists, Christmas card lists, stuff-I-want-to-do-today lists...they lay scattered about the house, stuffed into pants and coat pockets, jammed into my purse. I even found an old list from last year at the bottom of one of my Christmas decoration bins on the weekend, and it looks so good I might use it again this year. Lists help me empty my busy brain and keep track of what I think I should be doing on a particular day. Plus I get an almost post-coital satisfaction out of ripping them up once I’ve checked everything off.
This week my Monday list grew faster than Pinnochio’s nose. Holy geez, I thought after adding item number 14. How am I going to get all this done before I pick up the kids? I wasn’t feeling great to begin with, and just writing everything out made me want to crawl back into bed. Snap out of it, I thought. Get all this crap done before 3 p.m. and you’ll have time for a nap. There’s your reward. Now get going!
I don’t know why I drill sergeant myself on Mondays. I can’t imagine D ordering himself around like this if he were home; but then again, D likes to be busy. I think many women have this crazed instinct to GET STUFF DONE, especially those of us who work at home and are thereby expected to keep the good ship household afloat all by our capable little selves. There’s a deep vein of domestic guilt running through all my thoughts ever since I left my job: I’m home, so therefore I should be GETTING STUFF DONE. So I do.
D does help - he takes the kids to daycare, he picks them up, he takes out the garbage, etc. There were simply a lot of things that had to be done on Monday that I couldn’t skip, put off, or artfully delegate to someone else. Such as:
- collect Jade’s dance class outfit, shoes, snack and registration form; place by front door so as not to show up to dance class with a wailing child wearing track pants and winter boots
- write cheque for daycare
- pick up Jade, take her to dance class without Dylan seeing us
- return Jade to daycare after dance class without Dylan seeing us
- plan weekly meals
- shop for weekly meals
- unload & unpack groceries for weekly meals (which always culminates in the unpleasant task of cleaning out last week’s expired lunchmeat and squishy fruit from the fridge)
- dry laundry forgotten in washing machine from the night before
- fold laundry
- sort & put away laundry
- engage in battle of wits with crockpot to make baked beans (because for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to soak 2 lbs of white beans the night before)
- buy flowers and chocolate for mother-in-law’s birthday
- make apple tart for mother-in-law’s birthday (which sounds fancy, but is easy peasy and I didn’t have the energy for cupcakes)
- make spaghetti sauce for mother in law’s birthday (because both Kincardine Chinese restaurants are closed on Mondays)
- load car with birthday stuff
- pick up kids from daycare
- drive to mother-in-law’s for birthday supper
I was busy smacking my crockpot with a wooden spoon because the beans did not look like baked beans, but rather like loose stool with white beans flowing in it, when my “time for a nap, deserving hausfrau” alarm went off. Apart from the wretched beans, I’d finished almost everything else on the list. Yay me! But instead of feeling pleased with myself, I felt exhausted and mopey and lonely. I could be a housefrau with a vengeance, and most of the time I was pretty good at it. I just wasn’t sure whether or not I liked it.
I looked at the clock. 3:02 p.m. I looked out the window. Chickadee party at the bird feeder. I looked at my coffee maker. I swear it winked at me.
Suddenly, I knew what I needed. It wasn’t a stupid nap.
I made a pot of Kicking Horse coffee, poured it into my beloved thermos and doused it with Baileys. Got my favourite little mug out of the cupboard - an antiquey looking blue cup I got from a Waterloo neighbour who was cleaning out her basement - loaded up the car with the sauce, presents, galette and flowers, and drove down to the cottage.
Man, I love the cottage. Even when the windows are boarded up and the blinds are all drawn, it welcomes me. I plunked my thermos and mug down on the deck and took a few photos to show my Aunt and cousins, who never get to visit the cottage between October and May.
It was 11 degrees out with hardly any wind, which is very weird for December. The lake had receded so far that the rock my cousins had christened Diving Rock stood completely out of the water, awkward as a stranded whale. The beach was predictably deserted.
I uncorked my thermos and poured some coffee, then sat on the deck and took a deep swallow of caffeinated, Bailey-fied goodness. I knew I only had about half an hour before I needed to pack up and get the kidlets, but half an hour was plenty of time to do what I needed to do: chill out. Stop doing stuff. Take off my imaginary hausfrau helmet of invincibility - I picture it having big golden horns and a lightning bolt sticking out of the top - and suck in a big breath of damp, beachy air.
All that “just be” and “live in the moment” crap can jump the gap between corny and downright annoying pretty quickly. But sometimes a girl just needs to be and not do. For minds that tend to race from one thing to the next, not doing stuff, even for just a few minutes, is a sanctuary. It takes cultivation. It takes a willingness to be kind to yourself. Sometimes, it takes Baileys and coffee and the lake.
And you know what? The darned beans turned out all right in the end.