09 May 2013

It's (not) my right: Fighting to, in fact, be a thankful house

Paul and I believe that thankfulness is the solution to many of the world's ills, thus the name of this here little corner of the internet.  And, our own world is no exception.  When there is grumpiness, chase it away with thankfulness.  When there is frustration or giving up or meanness or illness, conquer with gratitude, cheerfulness, joy.

But, not so surprisingly, sometimes that's hard.

And, as matriarch of the day, I have a special burden.  Ain't nobody happy when Mama's not happy?  Well, ain't nobody thankful for jack when Mama is just a fussin' up a storm.

And the fussing doesn't start outloud.  It starts inside.  And usually, it starts with perceived victim-hood, right?  We all know this feeling.  I have been injured, and now I am irritated, so now I am grumpy, and eventually, it works its way outward and we start snipping over the fact that are you seriously asking me again where your d**n shoes are?
And of course, the worst perceived injuries are those perpetrated against us by our families.  The world is not really out to get you, but your family probably is, right?

My husband is the most hard working, caring, kind man I have ever known, and he genuinely wants me to be happy, healthy, and holy.  And his ego doesn't even get in the way of those desires.  But, still, he clearly is in a plot to make me miserable, says the small part at the back of my head.

And do you know when the primitive id rears its ugly head and insists that gratitude is far from what is needed?

Every year at this time.
(And I bet I'm not alone here.) 

It's Mothers' Day season. 

This is a day to give us mothers a time when we are officially appreciated. The idea is that our job is thankless, and that if we can just have this one Sunday, all manner of thing shall be well. 

However, if you are as blessed as I am, you are appreciated most days.  My husband puts our children to bed, while I sit on the couch or languish in the bed or scroll at the computer, every.single.night.   My sons are, as I type, playing a game in the back yard of "Who can pick Mama the most flowers" and my daughter tells me about once a week that dinner was just so delicious and she hopes she can one day cook like I do.  And they all defer to me in matters of the matriarchy -  I dictate, hopefully benevolently and with input, the way in which our life runs on a day to day and celebratory basis.  Christmas goes the way Ann Lowrey arranges for it to go. 

They do appreciate me.  They all four do.  No, really.  But, that is not enough in my own mind.  And, to top it all off, nothing ever would be.  That's the problem, right?

One year on Mothers' Day morning, they brought me breakfast in bed.  It was pretty much my least favorite foods, all ill-prepared.  Who is the ungrateful one now?  Who doesn't appreciate whom?

Why do I (we?) feel this way?  Why is it not enough?

I was sitting here this morning and psyching myself up for not being a witch, even internally, this mothers' day.  And I realized why we keep waiting for the perfect celebration brought to us by our people.

It's because, at least for me, I'm the one who is good at this stuff.  I plan, I celebrate, I find the thing that they all need to make them feel special.  This is my job.  I better be good at it.  I am in the business of making a home.  This means the daily things and then the special things.  I am supposed to interpret and parse the real injuries from the dramatic ones, and react accordingly.  I am to take the temperature constantly.  I am to know who is stressed and why - who needs a pick me up and how - and then to enact it.  I am to recognize the reasons for and then ensure the celebrations.  And so, because of these duties, I get better at these things. 

So, this day rolls around.  And if I could celebrate myself, I'm sure I'd do a bang up job.

I would appear at my own door with a coke icee first thing in the morning.  I would send me to the book store with one of the children, and then I would clean the house for me.  I would administer a foot rub and a back rub and put on Norah Jones or better still that Diana Krall album Paul bought for me the summer Ada Brooks was born, candles lit.  I would have developed a slide show of pictures from my years of mothering, and, being inside my own head, I would know exactly what sounds good for breakfast, lunch, supper, dessert, and would pull it off with the right bit of panache.  There would be ice cream.  And I would know whether or not I was in the mood for silence or visiting, all the kids climbing up in bed with me or not, a hike or a nap, an outing or 30 rock.
I could really Mothers' Day it up around here. 

But of course, we don't want to do that.  We want them to know it all and do it as well as we'd do it for ourselves.  Even though this is what we do all day, and this is what they do once or twice a year.

I have a favorite song - it's by Mary Chapin Carpenter - the lyrics are all about a woman and those small things she wants.  It's got a great piano intro, and she rocks the guitar while singing in that great old country-rock style that defined my childhood.  She just wants pens that don't run out of ink, and, ultimately, she just wants passionate kisses.  She sounds so reasonable.  And then, she gets more and more irritated and she finally says, "Do I want too much; am I going overboard to want that touch?  Shout it out to the night; give me what I deserve.  It's my right."

And so, the seed of ingratitude grows.

[And, just before we allow ourselves on the high horse:  quiet martyrdom is no better, and sometimes more long-term harmful, than actually fussing.  Thinking, 'oh, they can't help but be terrible husbands and children, but my role as mother and wife is to sacrifice and so I shall be silent and alone and only the Lord will know the sufferings of my heart, woe unto me' may be worse than saying, 'hey sweetheart - could you buck up and do something for me?' Silent martyrdom isn't helpful; the only solution is recognizing how well-loved and undeservedly blessed we already are.] 

 "It's not hard to love on people - just love on me."
"Love is a transitive verb, afterall."
 "Just try, for goodness sakes."
all run through my head, and too many days for me to admit, escape my lips.

And they do try.
And they perform at about a C- level.
And our victim hood grows.

It is the sin of our mother Eve.  She knows better, and probably, if you'll just let her alone, she'll take care of it, and you'll all see.  But see, she doesn't just want to do it her way; she wants you to do it her way as well.  It is, in a word, disgusting.

So, admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it, right.  I am joining Ingratitude Anonymous.
The list of things for which I should be on my knees constantly giving thanks about is ridiculously long.  God is good to the world He created.

I have an employed husband who seriously never quits serving people, usually us, who is also awfully funny and a terribly good kisser.  I have three pretty children who are healthy and amusing and generally pleasant.  I have a house - with 75 year old wood floors - a gas stove, gin and tonics, phenomenal friends, a church family that actually loves us, reliable transportation, clean water, great extended family, my health, hulu and netflix, an in-house and public library system,  sauteed onions and chocolate milkshakes, great music.  

But, for mothers' day, because I deserve it, afterall, I would also like 100 ranunculus in this perfect shade of antique ecru with an ever so slight tinge of pink undertones.  Carnations are evil; don't even try that jazz.  And why, family, do you not already know this? 

Lord have mercy on my soul.

1 comment:

  1. Love this! And needed it... Totally agree about the carnations. 😊