I burst through the door, smiling at anyone who looked up from their desks while silently hoping they didn't realize I was wearing pajamas and in the midst of a particularly unattractive rosacea flare up. I ushered the girls in front of me, saying another silent prayer (can you do that when you’re not religious?) that they could make it through the next ten minutes without a meltdown or divulging any embarrassing family secrets.
I could practically hear it already: "My sister was making snowmen with her boogers!"
I only needed to drop off some freelance work and pick up a fresh pile to tackle. The one thing I had working in my favor was that it was freezing outside and it would be difficult to decipher anything the girls said—no matter how adorable or potentially mortifying—from underneath their puffy layers of winter gear.
I was mid-worry when one of the women peeked over the top of her cubicle and smiled brightly. "You're like a breath of fresh air!" she cooed.
I turned around to see who she could possibly be talking to, but there was no one behind us. We were this breath of fresh air she was talking about. I was part of it. Me. The girl who felt like a ball of tightly wound worry with two ticking time bombs at her side.
Was that even possible?
Could I be a breath of fresh air?
Generally, when the girls and I descend upon a space, we're more of a cyclone: whirling and noisy and fast-moving. We talk a lot, laugh loudly, and generally disappear just as quickly as we came. Sometimes I catch my husband sitting back, dumbfounded that we belong to him. He is quiet and uncomfortable in large groups of people. He can hold conversations with a fraction of the amount of words we spit out at you, and he most definitely does not find our boisterousness refreshing. He finds us....exhausting.
But isn't that funny? Isn't it kind of insane what an enormous difference perspective makes? I feel like a cyclone and my husband sees me as a cyclone because we both know a few bits of information that the woman peeking over her cubicle does not: 1) I am always running late and rushing off in a whir, limbs flailing and children clinging to my appendages for dear life, and 2) I am at times so overwhelmed with to-dos that I appear as if I have no clue what is going on. Okay. Maybe sometimes I actually don’t have a clue what is going on.
So how does that smiling woman see me? While I'm panicking about all of the things that can potentially go wrong and all of my various insecurities, she sees me as something quite different. She sees a mom shuffling her unbearably adorable and well-behaved children around while juggling work and keeping them happy. And they look happy. And I look happy. So I must be doing it right.
Why can't I see myself like that? Do I know too much? Or maybe I simply dwell too much. I pick apart my insecurities and all of the potentials for disaster and highlight them. They're bright and glaring and suddenly, I'm blinded by them. I can't see past this big, bad spotlight, filled with all of my shortcomings.
Other people see what's in the shadows, the other parts of who I am.
The calm right there in the middle of the storm.
Guest post written by Jennifer Garry. Jennifer is a writer and mom to two feisty girls who talk as much and laugh as loud as she does. She writes about the ever-elusive struggle for balance on her personal blog, Cuddles and Chaos. Jen thoroughly enjoys a good book, a satisfying Netflix binge or a nice hunk of dark chocolate. Her husband’s okay, too.
Photo by Michelle Drewes.