Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cry Baby

I’ve always identified with the Holly Hunter character in “Broadcast News”. She’d allow herself a brief crying session once a day. Affording herself that moment of weakness prevented her from completely falling apart as she embarked upon the challenges of life. At least that’s how I took it. She was so close to losing it at any given moment, but granting that release, that cleansing moment of tears in total privacy, was regenerative. Giving her just the bolt of courage, nerve, stability, she required to carry her through each trying day in the world.

I’m always on the brink of falling apart. At least that’s how it feels, though I don’t think I appear to be. Like Holly Hunter, I cry or want to at least once a day. I look at my kids while they’re sleeping and think of the heart break that will befall them, the joy that will flood their lives, the fact that they’ll grow old, and I cry. I look at my husband and I think how lucky I am that I found him when I could so easily not have found him and ended up with someone I didn’t love or no one at all. On the way to work, I think of the day ahead and the criticisms and pressures I will surely endure with a calm smile and a nod and an “I understand. I’ll get back to you.” And I cry a little. At least on the inside but often on the outside too.

I feel like crying regularly. But I don’t. My defense is to keep myself moving. By throwing myself into the heat of battle, I force myself to keep on keepin' on. Because who would drop their sword, sit down and say, “I give up! Take me!” when a warrior is charging at them with a deadly weapon? No one! You fight! You keep going going going until you’re slain! You defend yourself to survive. The moment you stop, you die. If I stop, I’ll fall into a heap of unproductive, paralyzed weeping. And “die.”

From the moment I wake up and drag myself from my bed, I’m on the move. I’m tired, of course. It’s 5:45 in the morning. But I eject myself from the warmth of my bed and my husband, into the cold of the morning. I make the coffee, make the kids’ lunches, unload the dishwasher, take a shower. All by 6:15. Busy! Then I drink my coffee, check my blackberry (work email), check my personal email, do my face, my hair and get dressed. 6:45. If the kids are awake by then, I make them breakfast. Pancakes, French toast, eggs, whatever they ask for. It’s a treat for mommy to be home in the morning to make breakfast. I’m happy to oblige. If they do not wake up amidst my morning flurry, I slip out unnoticed to get to work early and finish answering the prior day’s late night calls and emails from Singapore and Brussels and London before my work day officially starts. A clean email box before 8:30 is my goal. Then I can start the real work. Meetings, negotiating, presenting, writing. Before I know it, it is 5:00 and I haven’t cried once. I haven’t even teared up. Except that one teeny tiny little moment where I felt my dignity slipping through my fingers as I took the blame for someone else’s mistake to save face for the team. It would have been more undignified to hurl blame in said other’s direction. Thus, I swallowed my pride and took it. Like a man. Or a woman, I suppose. A man probably would have blamed the other person.

If I’m lucky, I’ve snuck in a workout at lunch and a chat with a friend or two during the day to keep me sane. Now it’s almost the end of the work day and I’m winding down. But before going home, there’s the email box and voicemail to contend with. Can’t leave the office with unanswered emails. That would make the next morning’s tasks too great to bare prompting floods of tears on the way to work. An hour or so of deleting, responding, ignoring, filing keeps me dry-eyed the next day. Delete delete delete. I’m a serial deleter.

6:30. I can leave. I race home to be with my family for dinner, for homework, for straightening the day’s mess which I haven’t been there to see being made. Whew. At 8:30 or so, I collapse on the couch to watch one of my favorite reality shows. “Biggest Loser”, “Top Chef”, “Project Runway”. Something inane enough to erase the day’s happenings and take my mind off of the frantic day ahead. By 10:00, my heart has stopped pounding, my pulse has slowed (hopefully, or I won’t be able to fall asleep). Sometimes, when I lay down, I’m reminded of the fact that I have a big deliverable due, that the family’s finances depend upon me being able to keep going, that someone is disappointed in me (me?), that I'm probably about half way through my life (if I'm lucky enough to live to 78), that I'm almost too old to have more children (when the hell did that happen?). And I weep just a bit, before closing my eyes and falling off into an all too often troubled dream state.

And then the alarm at 5:45. Sword wielded and ready to go.

The closest I’ve ever come to actually falling apart was when I quit gymnastics. I couldn’t imagine what my future held, my parents and coaches were devastated and disappointed in me. I felt like a total failure. I stayed in bed for three weeks sobbing as I tried to fathom a future for myself. Everything I’d ever known was over. Others my age were stepping into life for the first time as they entered college. I felt like I was going off to a retirement home. Sometime during the course of four years of college, I realized I had a lot of life ahead. But it took a lot of crying to get me there. There was one other time I nearly lost it. After I had my second child, Wyatt, I slipped into a postpartum haze; the lack of sleep, the lack of activity (days consisted of nursing and rocking a baby for the most part) elicited gushing tears. I rocked and fed and cried. I was a puddle. Thankfully, my dear friend Rae saved me. She pulled me from the depths. She interrupted the stillness that was giving me too much time to think. To stew in the horror of all the things that could go wrong, that could befall my sweet baby Wyatt. We walked, we talked, we moved. And I was fine.

My husband often tells me to slow down. “Relax,” he urges. I can’t. If I do, it will all be over. I’ll wind down and descend into gasping sobs, a pile of useless mommy. I must keep going. I’ll keep slaying dragons until one eats me whole.

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