The clock creeps up on 5 p.m. The sky hangs gray and wintry outside the window. I’m sitting at my mirrored desk in the small alcove of my bedroom. When my older daughter needed her own room two years ago, I ceded my office to her, although it was never really an office. Work went on there, yes, but not officey work. More like creative and contemplative work, wondering work, the work of collecting and sifting and building; quiet work, whirling-words-in-my-head work and then when I needed and wanted, the fraught and delicious work of writing.
Now everything that is mine and meaningful from that room sits atop this desk, in the single drawer, pinned to the large cushioned board hanging on the wall. I am tap, tap, tapping on the keyboard, desperate to use my words, see them appear on the screen, before I have to go downstairs to make dinner. My three girls are endlessly hungry from 4 p.m. on. I have learned to serve dinner early, but that means a few minutes less for me, words flying.
The ground beef is sitting on the counter ready, as is the spaghetti. All I have to do is save my document and head to the kitchen. There is no good place to stop: just one more sentence, just one more thought to capture and hold, pet ‘til it purrs. It’s 5:09. Their belly clocks are ticking. It’s then that my oldest daughter calls up the stairs:
“Mom, I’m going make dinner, okay?”
I’m completely caught off guard. She is 13-years-old and this is the first time she’s ever uttered those words. My first instinct is to protest: making dinner is my job, my responsibility. Feeding my people is what I must do, even though I do not love to cook, even though it means cutting my words short.
“I was going to make meat sauce and spaghetti….” I call over my shoulder, still typing but gearing up to click “save” and deal with dinner.
“I got it mom,” she says. “I’ll figure it out.”
I hold on to so much. The daily tasks of sustaining my family expand and fill me to brimming. I am often overwhelmed by the intense, busy, noisiness of us all, yet I find it difficult to let go, believing the success of any given day is all up to me all of the time. Besides fulfilling the typical needs of feeding, clothing, sheltering and loving, this year has brought deeper demands to the surface: midlife, marriage, health; family relationships, friendships and school environments have all shifted in both subtle and obvious ways. It’s been a year of adaptation, rearranging expectations and redirecting my attention. There are days when I am fully spent, my heart empty, my legs weak. There are days when come 5 p.m. the thought of making dinner makes me want to cry. I am desperate to replenish myself, whether through sleep or reading, writing or wondering. What would it be like to feel a little less depleted at the end of a day?
Tonight I do not click “save” right away. Tonight I let go, gratefully turning over kitchen duty to my daughter, so I can hold on to myself just a little bit longer.
“Okay honey, that sounds great,” I call out. “There’s spinach in the fridge you can use.”
I’m not exactly sure what we’ll end up eating for dinner, but I’m curiously okay with that. For now I’ll keep on writing, the words filling me up, dancing around in the space where “Make Dinner” usually resides.
This post is part of the Reverb 15 December daily writing challenge, a series of writing prompts through which to reflect on 2015 and move into 2016 with clarity. Today’s prompt is “How can you replenish your (physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional) resources? What do you need most of all at this moment?”