We keep a weekly planner open on the kitchen table at all times. Monday at 6 – my therapist appointment. Tuesday at 5 – couples therapy. Wednesday after school – a team meeting for M, then his therapy at 6. Thursday at 5:30 – band practice? Friday at 5:30 – M’s dosing and group. Saturday at 8 – Modest Mouse concert. On the opposite page, a daily habit tracker with check boxes for each day of the week. For me, yoga. For him, play guitar. For us, purge (as in, every day contribute to our long-term effort of decluttering).
This is what our weekly calendar looks like on most weeks, although not always as packed with appointments. This is our new normal, our new routine – very consciously making time for our mental health, self care, recovery. Not written in our calendar is the rest of the everyday, the routine that most families are familiar with – drop off little m at daycare, work, pick up m at daycare, plop m in front of the TV for an hour while I space out in front of my phone and stick a few chicken nuggets in the toaster oven for his dinner, feed m, playtime, bath time, bed time, cook dinner for me and M or more often than not, grab takeout because who has the energy to cook anymore? Eat dinner in front of the TV and, lately, pass out on the couch and wake up in a pissy mood, a messy kitchen still left to clean, the next day hovering over me like a dark cloud. Most days, I am very tired. On days like these, self care and recovery just become another to-do on a long list of to-do’s. On days like these, I want to crawl back into bed and throw my life at someone else to do for me.
And then there are days like today. Sunday at home, no plans except to get the house back in order and re-energize for the week. I started off the morning feeling overwhelmed by all the housework that had to be done. Everywhere I turned there was something to clean, something to put away, something that kept being ignored. I managed to take one thing at a time, focus on each task at hand, then move on to the next. I made time for little m when he asked if I would play with him. I was able to communicate to M that I need a few hours out of the house to take a break from housework and mommy-ing to breathe. To write. Now, I’m sitting in a new coffee shop downtown, the kind that makes coffee foam designs that beg for an Instagram post. My film camera sits next to me, and old hobby from my twenties that I’m leaning into again, an urge to chase the light, feel the click of the shutter, the dreamy images revealed like a Christmas package after a long wait. Just as I wrote that, the barista picked up my empty coffee cup and complimented the camera – “Minolta?” he asked. “I have one too.”
Soon, I’ll pack up and head back home. The quilt in the dryer will likely need another spin. Little m will be ready for dinner and M will ask me what we’re eating. I’m thinking tacos from our regular Mexican spot. We’ll feed the little, get him ready for bed and start to wind down for the evening. Dinner in front of the TV. I feel relaxed knowing that I spent a good chunk of the day checking items off my to-do list, including “write.” There are many days where I feel like I’m drowning in to-do’s, and self care is almost like an impossible joke. I’m thankful for days like today, and I’m glad to be able to write about it – to remind myself that I’m not really drowning. I’m just riding the waves, and some days are rougher than others, but every day I must keep faith that the universe will keep me safe. That the energy of the moon pulls the waters back and forth, the same moon that guides me home.
On days like today, here are the words that help me:
First thing’s first.
“When there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, we can accept our limitations and make choices about what has to be done at once and what has to be postponed. We are not superhuman, we cannot do it all. First things first helps us make more workable choices and live with the choices we make.” – from How Al-Anon Works: For Families & Friends of Alcoholics
Let go of expectations of what I think my day or my house or my parenting should look like. Accept, embrace, be grateful for my life just the way it is.
It’s okay that little m didn’t have a vegetable with dinner. It’s okay that I didn’t make it to the yoga mat today. It’s okay to leave that last basket of laundry unfolded. It’s okay that m watched TV while I cleaned. It’s going to be okay.
Recovery isn’t always about therapy appointments or even talking about addiction directly. Sometimes it’s about weaving self care into the everyday: Using an Al-Anon slogan to help get through routines. A conversation with M about purging clothes and items we no longer need, and relating that back to our own healing – removing the dead leaves, what no longer serves us. Making room for new growth. And after a good day, saying thank you – to the universe, to M, to myself. We all worked together to make it through.
Tomorrow is Monday, and we’ll start over again.