I am standing in the kitchen, my 14-month-old son on my hip. I pour gluten-free flour into the mixer, praying it will transform into pizza dough. He oooohs and ahhhhhs, mesmerized by the Kitchen Aid paddle giving its best effort, whipping yeast, water, and flour into dough. I hope.
I look at the clock. Shit. This needs an hour or more to rise, so dinner will be later than planned. Somehow, another day has passed with a hopeful list still waiting to be crossed off. The wave starts to sweep over me, the one where I’m not enough, this life is not enough, time is not enough. I can feel its weigh pull me under.
When it started, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve always been hyper sensitive to time. Feeling prepared. Fitting it all in. Will there be enough? I love planners, love schedules, love seeing seconds, minutes, hours, mapped out on the page. I can look back into old notebooks and see life plans sketched out to the month, sometimes revealing dreams that now seem foreign, or successes that I can cherish.
When I became pregnant with my son, I had always planned to go back to work teaching middle school. I mapped it out, working out which units I would teach and which ones I would miss. I would finish out the spring and see how it would feel to be a mom working out of the house. However, each day that brought me closer to my return also brought with it a strange mix of anxiety and certainty. When I thought about teaching, I felt the constant weight of the wave. I knew it wasn’t right to go back to work, and it wasn’t right just to be with my son. As hard as it was to finally admit to myself, and to the people I loved working for and with, taking a break felt right. For the first time in likely my whole life, I didn’t really have a plan. Maybe add some yoga classes to my schedule, maybe pursue more photography, maybe something else I hadn’t even thought of yet.
Any worry I may have had over a lack of a plan was outweighed by how this decision would make the weight of time float away, make the wave retreat. No more two-hour commute! No more grading at 11pm! No more test scores to analyze, field trips to plan, parents to email, lessons to prepare, all of it, washed away with one difficult and freeing phone call. All 24 hours in the day would be mine, so I thought.
But you know the old saying, yes? Wherever you go, there you are.
I am here now. I have cultivated a new life, a new path, a new career. It is wonderful and terrifying and messy and completely up to me. And yet, the wave still finds me. I’m working on ways to part it, like Moses, or ride it, calm and collected on my mental surfboard. Pull it back, like the moon.
I can feel the wave coming when I am on the couch at night, ready for bed. It finds me at all of my makeshift desks, while I attempt to email clients or prepare for my yoga classes. It finds me when driving, mental calculations and tallies of all my efforts throughout the day. Did I read to my son enough, snuggle him enough, love him enough? Had I talked to a friend? Did I spend time with my husband? Was time dedicated to growing my business? Did I update my website? Post on social media? Did I listen to new music to use in class, practice yoga, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, think creatively, read a book? Even on the days I can answer each of the questions with yes, the wave can still sweep me away.
So what is there to do on this Tuesday evening, but take a deep breath, bring my lips to the top of my little boy’s head, and exhale?
His hands help me to place the hopeful dough in a warm spot to rise. We leave the kitchen. I set him down, watch his right arm crank mechanically as he runs toward the living room, leaping on top of a pile of blankets. We read a few books, haphazardly stack up blocks, and have a dance party. He spins with his hands above his head until dizziness takes over, and he surrenders to the floor. Eventually, we turn on Jeopardy, his favorite. His arms shoot into the air and his little mouth forms a perfect circle, exclaiming his excitement as Alex Trebek introduces the categories.
I give him a bowl of yogurt while we watch TV together. I watch his lips purse in concentration as he carefully, slowly dips the spoon beneath the surface, tapping it against the bowl a few times for good measure. When he brings the spoon to his lips he turns it upside down, as always, spilling a little yogurt down his chin. His calculated effort takes time, but he knows he has all the time in the world.
We both look to the TV screen as we hear a few beeps in quick succession -- the signal of time running out. There are a few clues left on the board that will never be revealed, questions left unanswered. I wonder quickly if the contestants feel the wave too.
During the commercial break I get up to check the dough, and my son’s arms rise up to me, fingers stretching, thoughtlessly dropping the spoon filled with yogurt. I watch it crash, splattering little drops on the floor. I lift him up, we walk to the kitchen, and together we peer into the mixer’s bowl. The dough didn’t rise. For a second my heart fell, and I could hear the roar of the water rushing towards me.
And right then he looks at me, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. I smile at him while he guides his tiny, yogurt covered pointer finger into my right ear. He erupts into all consuming laughter, and it is contagious. I laugh too, a heart lifting, time freezing, belly aching laugh. His laugh and mine, giving me time to study the little dimples on the back of his hand. Time to feel the slight sharpness of his fingernail against my skin. Time to feel his weight in my arms. Time to relish the dimples in his cheeks, his head thrown back in the air, mouth open, revealing ten teeth and more to come. Time to soak up every atom of here, of now, of me, of him. Time to know that everything, all of it, is more than enough.
Right then, the wave pulled back.
Guest post written by Corrin Saintey. Corrin Saintey is a yoga instructor and photographer living in Minnesota with her husband, 20 month old son, and 7-10 unfinished projects. Stories are her love language, and she loves to tell them with words, cameras, and yoga poses. Corrin has mastered the art of the perfect comeback written days later, fluffy cream cheese frosting, and reading past her bedtime. She just started to share her stories at corrinrae.com, if you’d like to give one a read.
Photo by Laurie Carrozzino.